Three places left in Eriksson's World Cup squad

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The England head coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, has revealed there are three places available in his World Cup squad.

The Swede has virtually settled on 20 of his 23 players for the finals in Germany next summer but players such as Jermain Defoe, Kieran Richardson, Darren Bent and Jonathan Woodgate have yet to nail down a place.

Eriksson said: "I could pick at least 20 players now then I have to start thinking harder. I was very happy to see Jermain Defoe score the goal he did for Tottenham on Monday night, coming on and scoring like that. You look at Wayne Bridge and question how many games he will have for Chelsea, likewise Kieran Richardson at Manchester United.

"Jonathan Woodgate too, what will happen with him from now to the summer? There's plenty to think about. It's a decision you have to take in May when the League is finished and you balance up how many games they have played and what is the best. I can't decide that today."

Eriksson believes the four-week guaranteed break before the start of the World Cup will make a huge difference to helping England players avoid burn-out at the finals.

Fifa has stipulated that no World Cup player can be involved in competitive games after 13 May and Eriksson pointed out that apart from those involved in the Champions' League and FA Cup finals, most players will end their season on 7 May, five weeks before the World Cup starts.

He said: "Fifa have said no games can be played four weeks before the World Cup and I'm a great supporter of that - it will make a big difference, I'm quite sure about that.

"We have suffered from burn-out in the past and if you can get one week extra for rest and preparation that really means a lot."

Eriksson said it was his ambition to take England to a major final before he leaves the job - but stressed the team's first task is to win their group against Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago.

He added: "It's a long time since England won it and we are one of four or five teams who can win and before I finish my job I would like to get to the final of a big tournament and the World Cup is the biggest.

"It's very important for England that we win the group and then most will not want to play us because they are aware of the damage we can do. In the same way we don't want to meet Germany, Brazil or Argentina.

"That's the difference from 2002. I feel we have a much better team than we had in Japan, much better."

Meanwhile, Uefa's executive committee will decide today whether England will host the 2007 European Under-21 Championships.

There are six countries vying to be hosts: England, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey.

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