England draw with Sweden and avoid Germany
21 June 2006, COLOGNE - The England team will be relaxing Wednesday having achieved their immediate World Cup objective of topping Group B and avoiding hosts Germany thanks to a 2-2 draw with Sweden.
21 June 2006
COLOGNE - The England team will be relaxing Wednesday having achieved their immediate World Cup objective of topping Group B and avoiding hosts Germany thanks to a 2-2 draw with Sweden.
Sven Goran Eriksson's men now face the more manageable task of beating Ecuador on Sunday in Stuttgart to book their place in the quarter-finals.
There were many positives for Eriksson in Cologne Tuesday, such as Wayne Rooney starting a match for the first time in nearly two months or Joe Cole's man of the match performance, which saw the Chelsea score one of England's goals and make the other.
But an inept defensive performance that saw England all at sea at set pieces and the sight of Michael Owen collapsing to the ground in agony with a serious knee injury after just a minute of play will be occupying Eriksson's mind most.
"Maybe he's out of the tournament, it doesn't look good at all," he said when asked about the injury to the Newcastle United striker. "I'm sorry for Michael Owen."
With Owen virtually certain to play no further part in the World Cup and Rooney obviously still not ready for a full 90 minutes, the Swede may yet live to regret his decision to travel to Germany with just four strikers.
Peter Crouch is one yellow card away from suspension leaving just Theo Walcott, a teenager who has yet to play a first team competitive match at his club Arsenal. But Eriksson says he has other players who can fill the forward positions if the need arises.
"We have Walcott who we haven't seen on the pitch yet. We have many players that can take that role. We have Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard," he said. "I'm not that worried about it."
But Cole confessed that losing Owen was a "big blow" while England captain David Beckham admitted that the 26-year-old striker, who was winning his 80th cap, would be tough to replace.
"It's sad. Michael's one of those players you need in big tournaments. It's unfortunate for him and for us," Beckham said.
The one bright light on the attacking front for Eriksson is that his midfield is delivering goals and Rooney is slowly playing himself into the tournament.
The Manchester United striker came on as a second-half substitute against Trinidad & Tobago but started against Sweden, his first game since breaking the fourth metatarsal in his right foot at the end of April.
The 20-year-old's desire to succeed at this tournament was there for all to see when the Manchester United hit the dugout and flung his boots to the ground after being substituted midway through the second half.
"Fitness was never a problem. I feel like I could have played longer," said Rooney. "I'm just happy that we finished top of the group."
Eriksson, who said Rooney was "more upset with himself that he didn't play as well as he wanted", admitted he took off the player as a precautionary measure.
"I took him off because you can't risk him playing too much, too early," he said.
But it is not only up front that Eriksson has concerns. Sweden got both their goals from set pieces and also hit the English woodwork twice in what was England's worst defensive performance to date.
"We score two fantastic goals and concede two at set pieces. We shouldn't do that because we are a tall, big strong team," said Eriksson. "We (normally) concede very little on set pieces."
Sweden's Henrik Larsson, who scored Sweden's late equalizer to maintain his country's remarkable record of not having lost to England in 38 years, said he was surprised at how vulnerable England appeared to be at set pieces.
"It surprised me a little bit all right but in the end we put in good quality crosses and corners which are very hard to defend against," he said. But Larsson feels England have more to offer and can go a long way in Germany.
"It's a good team, a quality side with a lot of class players," he said.
Subject: German news