FA defends Eriksson's absence on holiday

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The Independent Online

As they are two of world football's greatest powers, and rivals of England in the World Cup next year, the prospect of being able to watch Germany and Argentina would seem to be a vital part of Sven Goran Eriksson's preparations for next summer.

As they are two of world football's greatest powers, and rivals of England in the World Cup next year, the prospect of being able to watch Germany and Argentina would seem to be a vital part of Sven Goran Eriksson's preparations for next summer.

However, while the World Cup hosts and South America's pre-eminent team played a Confederations Cup match in Nuremberg last night, England's Swedish coach was not among the managers and scouts who traditionally flock to this summer competition. Instead, Eriksson was on holiday.

The 57-year-old was photographed relaxing on his yacht off the coast of Sicily with his partner Nancy Dell'Olio, and the pictures suggested that any thought of Brazil's new-look strike force or Germany's re-tuned midfield were far from his mind. As the FA was hit by the former secretary Faria Alam's allegations of sexual harassment against executive director David Davies, Eriksson might have considered it politic to be as far away from football as possible.

While his former lover made the allegations at an employment tribunal, Eriksson was missing the chance to watch teams he may have to beat next summer. On Sunday, Mexico - ranked sixth in the world and a good outside bet for the World Cup - beat Brazil 1-0, but Eriksson was not there.

With a schedule that is hardly demanding compared to the average Premiership manager, there have been suggestions that Eriksson, whose last competitive game was the 3-0 March defeat of Azerbaijan in Newcastle, should have interrupted his summer schedule for the Confederations' Cup. After all, his next England match is not until 17 August, for the friendly against Denmark.

Following that he has World Cup qualifiers against Wales on 3 September, Northern Ireland four days later and Austria on 8 October. The match against Poland at Old Trafford on 12 October looks likely to decide which nation qualifies automatically for the World Cup and which faces a play-off.

Eriksson has fought hard for his players not to have to play any matches beyond the end of May, and his end-of-season tour to the US for matches against the host nation and Colombia was judged a success. Sources at the Football Association have defended its £4.3m-a-year coach and pointed to the number of matches he attends in a normal season - 97 was the official FA total for 2003-04. They also suggest that the teams playing at the Confederations' Cup are largely experimental and that the true shape of the World Cup's big guns are not yet decided.

An FA spokesman said: "Subject to qualification, after the draw on 9 December Sven Goran Eriksson and his coaching staff will watch any prospective opponents. He will be watching them as they prepare for the big tournaments. Every Confederations' Cup game will also be scouted."

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