The setting was the august surroundings of the German embassy and while Sven Goran Eriksson was there on a mission to strengthen bonds between England and the World Cup hosts, he did have one request for next summer's tournament. The England manager made a special plea to Germany's organising committee and Fifa to give English fans a greater allocation of tickets.
As well as the 23-man playing squad, support staff and Football Association hierarchy that Eriksson will lead to Germany next year, it is expected that 100,000 English fans will make the trip for the first three Group B games in Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cologne. That will be 10 per cent of the total supporters brought by all 32 nations but there are no more than 4,500 tickets per game still available.
Eriksson chose the meeting at the German embassy to lead the FA's plea for more tickets to accommodate a travelling support that will dwarf those brought by first-round opponents Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sweden. He said that the FA will ask Fifa - football's world governing body - for more tickets.
"I think that's fair. Whether it will happen or not, I don't know," Eriksson said. "Someone at the FA told me we will have maybe 100,000 fans out there, even though we may only get 4,000 tickets for our matches. That is amazing. I would call on Fifa to give us more tickets and it would be very good if Fifa will do that for the England fans."
In a World Cup so tightly regulated by the Germans and Fifa - each ticket will be coded to carry the name, address and passport number of its owner - it was a bold step by the FA but reflects a concern that England's fans have been badly let down by the system. About 1.3m tickets were sold in February which went to fans who were prepared to buy them "blind". Some will have been lucky and got a seat to watch England play, others could be looking at a place for Angola v Iran or Tunisia v Saudi Arabia.
A further 300,000 went on sale on Monday - fans register for an online ballot that takes place on 15 January but that works out at around 4,500 a game for applications from all over the world. Finally, the members' club, englandfans+, will share out the eight per cent allocation the FA receives for every England match - however, membership, at 25,000, is already closed.
Although the German authorities say they will welcome England fans without tickets to various festivals they will be holding in the 12 host cities, an unprecedented amount of supporters face the prospect of missing out on seeing their team play. Eriksson told the German ambassador to Britain, Thomas Matussek, that he believed English fans would behave next summer but that they needed to be given the opportunity to watch their team play live.
"You will see a lot of English people in Germany next summer, what we need is more tickets because I think there will be more English people than from any other country," Eriksson said. "Hopefully our fans will behave and I'm sure they will - they did it in Portugal, they did it in Japan so it will be another nice party."
Eriksson also said that it would take an exceptional performance from an emergent player in the second half of this season to convince him to change his squad - 20 of which he said he could name already. Spots at full-back, striker and goalkeeper are the remaining places in the squad still up for grabs, and Eriksson said he was watching Wayne Bridge, Darren Bent, Jermain Defoe and Kieran Richardson closely. "You always hope some new player will come on, although in just six months that's not very likely," he said. "I will be looking at the form of the players and what positions they are playing in. I think I learn from every match I see. And it's great fun as well. Bent is one of the under-21 players and Richardson too. It's really up to them to convince me they should be in the group."
The three friendlies planned for next year, the first of which will be against a Nordic side at Anfield on 1 March would, Eriksson said, see him pick his strongest team available. "Otherwise, especially in May, you risk taking players to the World Cup who have not played football for one month," he said.Reuse content