Wednesday, September 13, 2006

 

The Eriksson Era

Dear me, Sven-Goran Eriksson is a sensitive flower these days. Following England’s crashingly mediocre World Cup effort, the Swede, now elegantly unemployed once more, was invited to be a guest speaker at a FIFA bash in Berlin. He declined, and his reasons have been outlined by his compatriot and friend, UEFA President Lennart Johansson.

On behalf of football fans everywhere, may I be the first to say: diddums!

Eriksson, frankly, deserves all the criticism he has received over the last couple of years and then some.

It took far longer than it should have for England fans to grow tired of him. The afterglow of the famous 5-1 win in Munich acted as a kind of protective shield for Eriksson, sparing him the barbs that his craven tactics and off-field misdemeanours deserved.

But let’s disregard the misdemeanours for now. This is a football blog, so let’s talk about the football of the England side under Eriksson.

In important games against opposition of any consequence, Eriksson’s strategy could be summed up in a short sentence. Nick an early goal, and then sit back.

He applied the above method against Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, and it worked. However, in subsequent crucial games against Brazil, France, and Portugal, the Eriksson smash-and-grab (or rather smash, grab and duck) system came badly unstuck.

His decisions and selections in 2006 were just perverse, the sign of a man who had surely lost interest in his job and was taking his employers for a ride.

His choice of forwards for the World Cup in Germany was nothing short of ridiculous. Two players struggling badly with injury, a 17-year-old whom Eriksson had not even seen play, and Peter Crouch. This at a time when players such as Jermain Defoe, Dean Ashton and Andy Johnson – to name only a few – could all make decent claims for inclusion in a squad of 23.

Yet it was symptomatic of Eriksson’s stubborn refusal to consider players from outside the English “top four”.

The result? An English World Cup performance that set new standards for underachievement. Excessive emphasis on the long ball, pitiful reliance on David Beckham’s dead-ball ability, and the eventual, desperate use of a recovering Wayne Rooney as a lone striker, a thankless deployment which surely contributed to his eventual moment of hot-headedness in Gelsenkirchen.

A well-known English football journalist, whom I met in Frankfurt, summed up Eriksson’s performance when he expressed approbation for the qualities of Australia’s manager.

“You’ve got the best manager at the tournament,” he said, “much better than this f--king coward we’ve got.”

Crude, but accurate.

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Geez, I didn't think people would bother spamming a blog about football... very sad really.

But anyway, nice post on the Trouble with Sven, Mike. Although now that England have magically moved up to 4th in the FIFA rankings, it seems the English media have fallen in love with Second-Choice Steve... maybe the Socceroos should try and get a game against Andorra and Macedonia. It seems that beating Greece is not enough to improve your ranking.

Simon
 
Hey Mike, can't you delete the blatant spam? Freedom of speech needn't be taken to antisocial extremes in my view.
 
...Hey Mike, can't you delete the blatant spam? Freedom of speech needn't be taken to antisocial extremes in my view....

I didn't even bother with this one, to be honest.

Spam I don't mind so much actually, what irks me more (and thankfully I don't get much of it on this blog) is people who rave on with criticism when they've totally misunderstood my point.
 
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