Eriksson: 'I still rule in the England dressing-room'

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The Independent Football

After the disaster of defeat to Northern Ireland in Belfast, Eriksson looked to head off the inevitable scrutiny of his regime before the squad meet next week for the matches against Austria and Poland at Old Trafford on 8 and 12 October. The England manager said that it was he who dictated tactics and that there was no favouritism towards David Beckham or any of the senior players.

"I have lost the players? There is no chance," Eriksson said. "Of course if you lose to Northern Ireland and play as badly as we did, everything is wrong - the players and the tactics. To say that because of that 90 minutes I have lost the power in the dressing room, [that] the feeling between me and the players is lost, there is no chance.

"He [Beckham] is handled in the same way as all the other players. The only difference is that I talk more to him than others because he's the captain. No player, captain or otherwise, has influence on which team or squad I pick or what tactics I use. That is between me and my coaching staff."

The end of the 4-5-1 system will mean the return to a partnership of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen in attack (although Rooney is suspended for the Austria game) but it will also mean a choice between Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips for the remaining place in midfield alongside Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

"If you play a diamond the wide midfielders have to cover a lot of ground," Eriksson said. "That was one of the reasons we tried that - but it did not work out. Whatever the tactical system, with the players we have we should have played much better than we did.

"We played 4-5-1 in Belfast partly because some of the players were not 100 per cent. It's all history now. What I do know is that some of those players, three weeks later, are now playing much better for their clubs. I've not abandoned the single striker. We can play that way. I thought it was necessary against Ireland. But I prefer 4-4-2 and so do the players. I've played that way with every team I've coached."

Eriksson believes England can go further than the quarter-finals at next year's World Cup if they receive a little bit of good fortune at vital moments. "The fact is if we avoid injuries and the players are in form we are one of the teams good enough to do it in Germany," he added. "Then, of course, you must also have a bit of luck, and we haven't had much. That Sol Campbell goal against Portugal, for instance. Wayne Rooney's injury. Penalty shoot-outs. Ronaldinho's goal."

Eriksson will face an Austria team set to be managed by Josef Hickersberger, the manager of Austrian champions Rapid Vienna, after Krankl's dismissal. Hickersberger, who coached the national team 15 years ago, hopes to be released by Rapid in time to take charge.