Eriksson: 'I will not panic. I trust the players. I think we played well'

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The Independent Online

It was not quite a rallying call in the class of Corporal Jones, but the message from Sven Goran Eriksson sounded worryingly familiar yesterday. "Don't panic" was the gist of his assessment, while the England coach assured the Dad's Army element among his troops that, once again, their places would not be under threat.

It was not quite a rallying call in the class of Corporal Jones, but the message from Sven Goran Eriksson sounded worryingly familiar yesterday. "Don't panic" was the gist of his assessment, while the England coach assured the Dad's Army element among his troops that, once again, their places would not be under threat.

In the wake of Saturday night's surrender of a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Austria in the opening game of England's World Cup qualifying campaign, Eriksson promised little change in either tactics or personnel for Wednesday's match against Poland in Katowice. The Poles were impressive 3-0 winners away to Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Having said immediately after Saturday's game that his goalkeeper, David James, would not be dropped despite his errors, Eriksson was asked yesterday whether he might not be tempted to replace the likes of David Beckham and Michael Owen after less than impressive performances.

"I think the worst thing I could do at this moment is to panic, changing five players for Wednesday, taking out Michael Owen, David Beckham or whoever else," Eriksson said. "I will not panic. I will stick to more or less the same formation. I haven't decided exactly yet, but it won't be a revolution, for sure. I will trust the players. I know they are the best players and that they will do the job."

As for Beckham, who rounded off a limp display with a yellow card for a senseless foul, Eriksson remained wholly supportive. "I think he played well," he said. "He can do better, of course, but I think he did a good job out there. I haven't talked to him about the yellow card yet, but I will do. But it's not a big problem."

England have now failed to win three of their past four competitive matches, despite taking the lead, and Eriksson agreed that their tendency to fade was a cause for concern. "We had the game in our hands and we should have won it," he said. "I think we played well, especially in the first half, but we didn't win the game and we should have done."

How would he attempt to rectify the problem? "Talking," Eriksson said. "Showing videos. Practising." He was particularly concerned about England's habit of giving away free-kicks in dangerous areas. France scored a late equaliser against England in Euro 2004 from a free-kick and Austria got back into Saturday's game with a set piece after a clumsy foul by Frank Lampard. "After France, we should have learned not to give away stupid free-kicks close to the penalty area," Eriksson said. "Hopefully, we will learn for the future."

Were Austria the worst opponents his side had faced? "They defended very well, made some good counter-attacks and took a good free-kick. The worst team we have played? Absolutely not." He added: "I've always said that I want to be judged on football results and it's up to you to judge me after the performance yesterday. I always said that I will stay in this job. The only way that I will leave is if we don't qualify for the World Cup. And I am quite sure we will qualify for the World Cup, even after yesterday's second half."

Although it seems highly unlikely that Nicky Butt will make the squad for Katowice - the midfielder missed Saturday's game after staying at home for treatment to a hamstring injury - England should have no further injury worries. Wayne Bridge has a sore Achilles but is expected to recover, while Steven Gerrard showed no ill effects from the groin problem which at one stage had threatened his place in Saturday's team.

Gerrard claimed after the game that his substitution nine minutes from time had been a mistake, because he had been trying to draw the bench's attention to Bridge's injury rather than any problem of his own. However, Eriksson said that he had always intended to withdraw Gerrard before the end of the match because of his lack of training last week.

Eriksson also responded to those who had criticised him for replacing Gerrard with a defensive midfielder, Jamie Carragher, rather than an attacking player. Eriksson said he had been concerned that Austria were dominating the midfield in the latter stages and felt that he had to replace Gerrard with a ball-winner.

England fly to Poland this afternoon and know that their next opponents are likely to offer an altogether tougher test. Katowice can be an intimidating venue and the Poles have a much better recent record than the Austrians. However, they will be without one of their scorers from Saturday, Piotr Wlodarczyk, who was sent off.

Pawel Janas, the Poland coach, said: "I was thrilled with the way we played on Saturday. The only sour note was the sending off. The player was silly to get involved. It was a promising show, but we know England will be tough opponents. They play very good football and the game against Northern Ireland gave us a taste of what to expect."

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