Sweden coach lambasts Eriksson exit

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The Independent Online

England may come to regret getting rid of Sven Goran Eriksson, according to the Sweden coach Lars Lagerback. He said that the treatment of his compatriot had been "unfair", adding: "Maybe it will only be in two years' time that you will look back and think you made a mistake by letting him go."

Sweden will be England's main rivals in Group B at this summer's World Cup finals, after which Eriksson will step down as coach. Lagerback said that he did not "understand" criticism of Eriksson in the English press.

"If you look over the period of time he has been the manager, I doubt another England manager has had the same run of results," Lagerback said. "You won [the World Cup] in 1966 and got to the semi-finals in 1990 but that apart I don't know who has had a better record than Sven. He has done a marvellous job."

Lagerback said that Eriksson may have suffered "because he is not a typical English manager on the touchline punching the air. You may not think he is doing anything but that is wrong. That's just his character."

The Swedes were shocked by their 3-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in Steve Staunton's first game in charge, in Dublin on Wednesday. Afterwards, their players said that they could not remember a worse performance, although their captain Olof Mellberg explained that they "hadn't done any work on the game".

Instead the Swedes had used their time in Dublin as preparation for Germany - including a photo-shoot and a logistics meeting. "We have gone through the whole schedule," Mellberg said.

Sweden play Finland and Chile before the World Cup, where Lagerback, unsurprisingly, expects Wayne Rooney to be the main threat posed by England. "He is physically very strong and with a good touch, and for someone so young he is a very intelligent player," he said.

However, Rooney's former Everton team-mate, Niclas Alexandersson, said that there may be too much pressure on the 20-year-old. "In England they always believe they will win," he said. "They have got probably more pressure in that way than we have."

Ireland will now try to build on their victory ahead of the Euro 2008 qualifiers which start in September. They play the Netherlands in August and are trying to arrange another fixture in Dublin, in May.

They will, of course, miss out on the World Cup and their mood was summed up by the Blackburn Rovers midfielder Steven Reid. "Beating Sweden so well does make you wonder how we could have done in Germany, because I think we outclassed them," he said.

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