World football's governing body, Fifa, are expected to turn down a request from Sven Goran Eriksson to be allowed to use more than six substitutes in England's two remaining matches before the World Cup. He therefore wants to play a B international in London during the preceding week, the first time such a fixture would have been staged in eight years.
Having fought so hard to obtain a gap of five weeks between the final Premiership games on Sunday 7 May and the start of the tournament, head coach Eriksson is now concerned that some of the reserves in his squad will become too ring-rusty.
Supporters intending to watch the matches at Old Trafford against Hungary (30 May) and Jamaica (3 June) will not be best pleased to learn that he is pursuing the option of using as many replacements as possible, which proved highly unpopular in the past and led to Fifa imposing a maximum number of six.
"We have two friendly games and I'm not sure at the moment how many substitutes," Eriksson said. "I hope they allow us to do more, but if it's only six, the risk is I'm taking players to the World Cup who haven't played since 6 May." But a Fifa spokesman said yesterday: "I would refer you to the laws of the game, Law three, which states: 'In National A team matches, up to a maximum of six substitutes may be used'. So it's out of the question."
Before the law was changed, England made a total of 19 substitutions in their final two warm-up matches before Euro 2004, against Japan and Iceland. Every player in the squad got on to the pitch, including Jermain Defoe, who was not even going to the finals. To offer that sort of practice this time, Eriksson is investigating the possibility of England's first B international under his stewardship.
Although first played in 1949, B games have been in and out of fashion ever since, and there has not been one since Russia provided the opposition at Loftus Road in April 1998.
World Cup organisers yesterday agreed to consider Eriksson's request to move the deadline for coaches to submit their final squads. The coach has persuaded other national managers to support his bid to have the deadline moved back from 15 May and the issue will be reconsidered in 10 days' time.
The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, said in Lucerne: "This deadline has been fixed but it's a question for the organising committee." The issue is also to be raised at a meeting of World Cup coaches in Düsseldorf this week attended by Eriksson and the FA executive director, David Davies.Reuse content