Eriksson backs King and looks forward to English rule in June

He could scarcely have put it in starker terms: those who despair at the progress made by the England team, at Eriksson's failure to harness the prodigious talent of our golden generation into a truly great side, are in fact inhabiting an entirely different reality to his own. It has never been Eriksson's way to challenge his detractors in public - he barely seems to know who they are anyway - instead he employs a much more damning form of riposte to their criticism: he affects not even to comprehend it.

It is a sobering thought as England complete their successful World Cup qualification campaign against Poland tonight in a match that may count for nothing but has come to signify a great deal. It is a personal conviction that the victory over Austria on Saturday was not as desperate a performance as some, especially in the BBC's coverage, may have suggested and, above all, the result was the one aspect that really mattered. Most importantly, this was an England team repairing itself after their humbling in Belfast and the football nation's darkest defeat of the decade.

Now that some of the shame of that defeat has been assuaged, and a World Cup finals place secured, a familiar, troubling serenity has settled upon Eriksson. After the humiliation at Windsor Park, painful though it was, we witnessed the transformation of the England manager into a man who feared for his reputation and his legacy and responded by making a brave decision to drop Rio Ferdinand. Yesterday, he had returned to his default setting - a man baffled by criticism and untroubled by the finer details of his job.

One of the less taxing tactical questions tonight is whether to select Tottenham's Ledley King, a centre-back, as a holding midfielder ahead of three players - Phil Neville, Jermaine Jenas and Alan Smith - who perform the role for their clubs every weekend. Even before you consider the omission of two defensive midfield specialists from the squad - Scott Parker and Danny Murphy - it was a leap of faith for Eriksson to continue to play King in a position he claimed the 25-year-old had filled for "one season" at Spurs.

Not quite one season, it was pointed out to Eriksson, but just 12 games. A small point that he may not consider vital among the countless decisions he has made over a 10-match, 13-month successful qualification campaign but worth noting none the less - especially if King finds himself promoted to the first team next summer. A dozen games, six months, a season - whatever. These are just not the details that play upon Eriksson's mind.

What matters to him more than ever, his multi-purpose justification, is that his team have qualified for the World Cup. "We did the job anyhow," is how he likes to put it. There is no denying that it is a compelling logic, that this England team should be congratulated for easing through qualification with a game to spare while other great European powers such as France and Spain conspire to make such heavy work of the job. It is, however, what lies beyond next summer that holds so few certainties.

Questioned on England's defeats against the very best international sides - Brazil, France and Portugal were just three examples - Eriksson reminded his questioner that he had "forgotten [the successes against] Germany, Argentina and Turkey". However much the progress of this enormously talented England team appears to swerve between the good and the bad, Eriksson is unshakeable in his belief that they have saved their best for next June.

"I was convinced that we should qualify - we are now qualified and once again, I am saying that if we don't have too many injuries, we will have a very good World Cup," he said.

"One of the reasons is that we have an extremely good football team which, unfortunately, we haven't shown every time. This team with not too many injuries is a better team than in Portugal [Euro 2004], a better team than in Japan [World Cup 2002]. And in Japan and Portugal, we went out quarter-finals because of almost nothing. That is one of the reasons I am convinced."

He looks certain to start with Shaun Wright-Phillips tonight on the right, Joe Cole on the left and the third Chelsea man of the midfield, Frank Lampard, freed to attack by King's presence. Rio Ferdinand will be back in the starting line-up in place of Sol Campbell - which begs the question whether Eriksson will drop him all over again if his three centre-halves are fit for the Argentina friendly on 12 November. And Wayne Rooney is back in attack.

"I always try to make them play good football but if you just say '[here's] the ball and good luck', I think I do very bad work," Eriksson said. Good or bad work, Eriksson's labours are distinctively his own. The conviction this manager has that his team will peak in June seems to be one of the few beliefs that stir his unreadable emotions: tonight would be a good moment for his side to start proving him right.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution