Terry denies charges of change for the worse in England defence

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The Independent Football

A subtle change in character had been noted in the England manager before he arrived in Germany, with confirmation of his departure from the Football Association signalling the welcome arrival of both joviality and stubbornness in the Swede's often dour demeanour, but it is the precarious finale of his tenure that has revealed a side to Eriksson that has taken the most streetwise of internationals by surprise.

The England manager left his defence in no doubt on Tuesday night that their performance against Sweden was totally unacceptable. Indeed, having had 24 hours to analyse the game and curb his emotions, he refused to weaken his critique even when he met the press on Thursday. "Gentleman, that was awful," he said, a radical departure. One more failure to defend a set-piece correctly, one more penalty miss and England's World Cup could be over. Now that the safety net of a poor result or performance has been removed against Ecuador, there is an urgency to Eriksson that has revealed itself in more than just proactive substitutions. "He knows we have a very good side and he knows that this is his last chance to win something with a very good group of players. He wants to make sure he gives it everything," said Terry.

Terry would not go so far as to compare Eriksson with Mourinho, his manager at Stamford Bridge - "He's not that kind of manager," he said - but there is an impatience for success that has transmitted into England's team selections, substitutions and post-match discussions in Germany, particularly in Cologne. The Chelsea captain revealed: "We hadn't beaten Sweden for so long and we were very close to beating them. He will never knock tables over or scream in your face but he has certainly been saying a lot more, as he did on Tuesday. Over here Sven has been a lot more aggressive with his thoughts. He has been demanding. Everyone deals with things in their own way and Sven has his. I'm not talking about shouting or screaming - he is just a lot more aggressive. That's the one thing that stands out that has changed with him." Many believe there has been a change in the 25-year-old in this tournament, too, and not for the better. There was almost a Mourinho-like eruption at England's training camp yesterday afternoon when it was put to Terry that his World Cup form has been in marked contrast to the imperious performances upon which two title triumphs have been built at Chelsea but, having pierced his interrogator with a menacing stare and then paused for composure, he offered a polite argument to the contrary instead.

"I wouldn't say that," he said, after what seemed an interminable delay. "When I sat down after the first two games I thought I did well. After every game I assess the things I've done well and things I haven't, and it was the same after Sweden. I'm my own worst critic. I know I could have done better. I had one bad game and you say that - it surprises me, but I take it on the chin. I don't agree with you."

Terry is prepared to admit that, collectively, England have produced only in terms of results so far but believes the onset of the knock-out competition will allow Eriksson's side to prosper. He reasoned: "We know we are not playing great football but it is encouraging that we know we have so much more to give. Teams will come at us more in the knock-out stage, the games will be more open, and we will raise our game. Even Brazil are not firing on all cylinders yet."

Yet there can be no repetition of Tuesday's defending if the promise of a richer game from England is not to be undermined at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion tomorrow afternoon. Along with the 4-5-1 system that Eriksson and his coaching staff persisted with in training yesterday there was also an abundance of set-piece routines designed to erase the flaws that almost consigned England to runners-up place in Group B and a date in Munich with host nation Germany.

"Before the game it is on the board and we know who we are marking and the responsibilities we have at set-pieces," admitted Terry. "But Sweden overpowered us. Once they won the first couple of headers we looked shaky. Everyone has to stand up to their responsibilities. We have worked hard on that today. If you slip up in the group stages then you can bounce back. Now we have 90 minutes to get it right or we are out of the competition." And facing one final, farewell eruption from Eriksson.

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