Eriksson ditches the diamond in move to widen England options

Maybe it was right that Claudio Ranieri should have been succeeded by Sven Goran Eriksson. Even now, at the last possible moment before England fly to Portugal, the Swede was still tinkering.

Maybe it was right that Claudio Ranieri should have been succeeded by Sven Goran Eriksson. Even now, at the last possible moment before England fly to Portugal, the Swede was still tinkering.

Having used Tuesday's friendly with Japan to polish the diamond formation he intends to use against France, the England head coach will employ a conventional 4-4-2 for the final rehearsal before the European Championship opens.

Eriksson knows he might be accused of indecision against Iceland at the City of Manchester Stadium this afternoon and yesterday he admitted to hedging his bets. Had Nicky Butt been fully match fit and had he been the player for Manchester United that he was during the World Cup, the diamond would have had an anchor. However, Butt is a player on the wane and Eriksson remarked that different formations might be employed in England's other group games against Switzerland and Croatia.

"I will decide the formation game by game when deciding what to do," he said yesterday. "If we have the opportunity to play both systems, then why not do so? But it doesn't matter what system you play, if you don't take up the right positions. We lost our shape a lot against Japan in the second half, hopefully because of tiredness." Certainly, Eriksson felt confident enough to all but announce his side 24 hours before kick-off. Paul Robinson will start his first international, while Jamie Carragher fills in at centre-half for John Terry, who is not fully match fit. After the half-time break, Eriksson will use no fewer than 10 substitutes and said with a weak smile that he hoped the paying public would understand.

Tuesday's encounter with Japan was for Eriksson both exhilarating and worrying. He maintained that for the first half an hour England performed on a plane which would have troubled even the French. After the interval, they were a mess. Hence, the rigorous new emphasis on physical fitness. "I talked to the French manager in the World Cup (Roger Lemerre) and one of the reasons he gave for them not doing well was they missed something in their physical preparation," Eriksson said. "It is very difficult when you have a big tournament as we do every second year and it is after the Premier League and the Champions' League. If you remember the World Cup, those teams, like [South] Korea, who had one or two months off, were physically much better than the others." That excuse will not run in Portugal. Only Russia, who are midway through their season, have had a different pattern of preparation, while of England's likely starting line-up in Lisbon, only Frank Lampard and John Terry travelled further than the European Cup quarter-finals.

It is not just the physical preparation that is worrying. Despite the outward shows of confidence, which range from statements by David Beckham that this is the best England side he has been involved with, to the St George's flags fluttering from seemingly every car, Eriksson's results have been poor.

The Swede does not care overmuch for friendlies, seeing them as more rarefied forms of training sessions but his run of results going into the European Championship are some of the worst by an England team before any major tournament. They have given no performances to have kept Europe awake. Last month in Eindhoven, the Netherlands took on a Greek side that had not conceded a goal in six competitive games and scored four times. There has been nothing from England on that scale.

Of their last six matches, only one has been won and that was against Liechtenstein at Old Trafford. Before England's most successful tournaments of modern times, the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European Championship, Bobby Robson's and Terry Venables' teams won four of their final six games.

However, it has to be pointed out that Eriksson had a similarly unimpressive friendly record before the 2002 World Cup from which England emerged with credit. Yesterday, he said it was the big games - ones where his record is enviable - that matter. "We are not preparing for Japan or Iceland, we are preparing for when the tournament starts." A few months ago, it would have been a reasonable supposition that England's opening game against France would be foreshadowed by the departure of the manager to a London club. So it has proved but it is Jacques Santini's decision to seek Daniel Levy's employment at Tottenham rather than Eriksson's embracing of Roman Abramovich's wallet, which has triggered a fierce debate across the Channel.

Just as Bobby Robson was hysterically accused of betraying England by signing a contract with PSV Eindhoven before the 1990 World Cup, so Santini has been told by the French press he has handed England a crucial advantage before the teams meet in Lisbon. France, they said, would be destabilised. Eriksson thought the accusations ridiculous; they did not prevent England under Robson producing their best display in a foreign tournament and he doubted the French could be so easily deflected.

"I would be very surprised if that could disturb 23 players," Eriksson said. "Players, coaches and the manager are much too professional for that. What does the player want? He wants to win the tournament and as to who his manager is in August, who cares? If I said I was going to Chelsea, I would have been killed but by whom? I shouldn't have been murdered by the players, that's for sure. By the fans? I doubt it. By you in the media, certainly."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen