Scholes injury adds to England woe

Click to follow
The Independent Football

"We'll bounce back" was the line from England's players yesterday but they will have to rebound from their dramatic defeat against France without Paul Scholes. The Manchester United midfielder suffered a twisted ankle in the later stages of Sunday's tie and is set to miss Thursday's game against Switzerland in Coimbra.

Scholes, who was one of England's best performers in the first half in the Estadio da Luz, is unlikely to be able to train properly for several days.

England have a further problem in midfield. Nicky Butt suffered an injury to his right knee in training yesterday that required a hospital scan. The results of the scan will not be known until today, but it must be doubtful that Butt, one of Scholes' possible replacements, will be fit to face the Swiss.

However, John Terry is back in contention after recovering from his hamstring injury. He is expected to return at the expense of Ledley King despite the Tottenham defender's excellent performance against France.

Gary Neville also has a knock, but is expected to be fit for Thursday, as are several players who have blistered feet. Switzerland, with lesser depth of resources, are without the suspended Johan Vogel, their midfield anchor. England should be confident of victory. Eriksson's prime task is to ensure they are.

"The English mentality is to never give up and I told them: 'don't be down'," said Eriksson last night. "I talked to them about the game for two minutes. Then I talked about the future. It was not the final. It was not like being Bayern Munich when Manchester United scored twice in the last moments of the European Cup final. There are other matches. It is not done. Life goes on."

The Swede said he would not address the immediate causes of defeat as they were simple "human error, which happens". Eriksson explained: "What do you say to Steven Gerrard? That you don't play the ball to the goalkeeper. He didn't see Thierry Henry. That is human. What do you say to David Beckham? To put the penalty in the other corner? If it was a tactical problem I would talk about it but there is nothing to say about Sunday other than congratulations for the performance. I am very proud of the performance and of the players. They did exactly what we asked of them.

"OK, we lost, but the tournament is long and Thursday is extremely important, not just for the result but to show 'we are England, here we are and we are going to perform'. It is important we perform as we did yesterday on Thursday, and throughout the tournament."

Frank Lampard concurred: "It is important we take the positives out of the game and be strong," he said. "It showed we had a lot of quality. We were very strong at the back, Wayne Rooney was a big threat with his pace and power, and in midfield we matched them at times. If we take that into the other games we'll get through."

Gerrard said: "We have got to concentrate for the full game. We had the game wrapped up with 90 minutes gone and we deserved to win. On a different night we might have scored the penalty and won 2-0 but these things happen in football.

"We can't afford to be down. It is a clean slate now and we need to go for the Swiss on Thursday. I will bounce back and make up for my error. It was a silly mistake but I am glad it happened in the first game because we have time to make up for mistakes and I promise you I will make up for it. We are not out of it."

Eriksson has two selection problems to solve before Thursday. One is how to replace Scholes, who is said to be "50-50" but is probably more "20-80" to make it. The other is whether to recall Terry.

King's accomplished performance as an emergency stand-in centre-half suggested he should be retained but Eriksson said: "There is no reason to leave him out but also no reason to keep Terry out. It is a good problem to have. Ledley will be disappointed [if he is left out] but he will understand."

One positive was the behaviour of the estimated 50,000 English supporters in Lisbon. The bulk of those were inside the ground and they remained patient despite the chaotic organisation of the Portuguese hosts. The stewarding and advance planning were not just poor but dangerous, as bottlenecks built up while supporters queued for entry in searing heat. One Football Association official said: "We could have had another Hillsborough".

Inside the ground some seats simply did not exist and supporters were told to "sit anywhere". With the FA acutely aware that they will be held responsible for any fan misbehaviour, whatever the circumstances, they were mightily relieved that the only serious trouble was back in the Shires.

However, as England return to the Luz on Sunday, and potentially later in the competition as well, the FA are making representations to the sport's European governing body, Uefa, to address the situation urgently.

Comments