I have to admit…Eriksson is not much of a tactician.
Let’s look at his predictions. If Eriksson is to be believed…
- Rooney’s start will spark Michael Owen’s form and allow him to score a couple of goals against Sweden.
- Rooney’s inclusion will scare the Swedes (into doing what, exactly? Tackling him and injuring him?)
- Rio Ferdinand will emulate Franz Beckenbauer by 9th July – at Berlin, no less.
- Owen Hargreaves will allow Becks, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard to bomb the Swedish defense and blow them to bits.
England take on Sweden tonight in the battle for top spot in Group B. The prize is pride, not much else, because playing either Germany or Ecuador will be difficult in the second round. And as the media continues to remind us, England have not beaten the Swedes since 1968.
What’s more worrying for me is that Sweden possesses a wealth of attacking talent in Ibrahimovic, Ljunberg and Larsson. Not only will the back four have to be on top form (Ferdinand must relish the chance to go up against Ljunberg again), but the holding midfielder – in this case Owen Hargreaves – will have to turn in a stellar performance. No more ‘pulling out of tackles’. Get in, get the bloody ball and give it to the five men in front of you. Shouldn’t be too hard.
Expect Walcott to replace either Owen or Rooney towards the end of the match. Also expect Lennon to have another run – Eriksson will look to protect his captain and in any case, Lennon’s pace is always a valuable weapon. I don’t see Eriksson playing Becks in holding or as right back, so to make space for Lennon he would have to do something drastic.
By sitting Gerrard out Eriksson has pretty much made it clear who is indispensable in the center of the park. If Hargreaves is a success, then Lampard could be deemed surplus to requirements in the latter stages of the tournament, especially if he misses as many times today as he has in the previous two games. Unlikely though, but Eriksson needs this tournament as much as England needs it, and he’ll at least sub Lampard out at half-time if necessary.
So…subs to be used – Walcott, Lennon, Downing. Who will go out? Rooney/Owen, Cole, Carragher/Beckham. Eriksson could easily go back to the 3-4-3 he used against T & T (which was a 4-4-2 with Lennon and Beckham pushing forward on the right) against Sweden, and to be honest it’s not a bad formation to have if you’re going for the win.
England Starting Lineup
GK – Robinson
DEF – Carragher, Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole
MID – Beckham, Hargreaves, Lampard, J. Cole
ST – Owen, Rooney