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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
Eriksson makes it simple
Sven Goran Eriksson
Eriksson handled the pressure in Munich
From BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty in Munich.

England coach Sven Goran Eriksson announced he was feeling lucky as he made the final touches to preparations for what became World Cup carnage in Munich.

Eriksson is indeed blessed to inherit a talent such as Michael Owen - but the Swede did not just rely on Lady Luck to inflict a devastating defeat that left Munich in mourning.

In reality Eriksson leaves nothing to chance, and the beauty of his part in England's greatest result of the modern football era is a simple efficiency that was the envy of the country that almost claims to have invented it.

Nick Barmby worked hard on the left flank
Nick Barmby worked hard on the left flank
Eriksson picks England's best players, prepares them meticulously - physically, mentally and tactically - and sends them out in a formation that suits them.

It is hardly rocket science, but it is a skill that few master completely and Eriksson shows all the signs of having succeeded.

It is no coincidence that the team that delivered a result that will send shockwaves around football was built entirely on what many would regard as the Premiership's big four.

Liverpool. Arsenal. Manchester United. Leeds United.

Eriksson has married the midfield of Liverpool and Manchester United into a unit that has class and creativity, silk and steel.

The core of England's defence comes from Arsenal, while attack is once more left to Anfield.

Throw in substitutes from Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, in the shape of Owen Hargreaves and Steve McManaman, and it is clear Eriksson is picking the cream of the crop.

Owen Hargreaves was on familiar territory
Owen Hargreaves was on familiar territory
He is clearly not above the symbolic gesture either, sending on Bayern's Hargreaves on his home ground just to show off the talent that has been honed by Germans themselves.

Eriksson's Munich team selection also showed a sure touch, with subtle but important changes to the line-up that won convincingly in Greece.

Emile Heskey is a character not short on ability but lacking in self-confidence, and Eriksson has quickly assessed he needs the comforting arm as opposed to the jackboot.

Heskey was an ill at ease figure on the left flank in England's Athens win, while team-mate Robbie Fowler was the outstanding performer.

And yet Heskey's selection was justified - as a psychological ploy as much as anything else - on the strength of his link with Owen that destroyed Bayern in the Super Cup.

Fowler was victim of his troubled times at Liverpool, but Eriksson insisted no square pegs would be in round holes in Munich and Heskey was back up front.

Emile Heskey has improved under Eriksson
Emile Heskey has improved under Eriksson
It was a show of faith in a player who needs it, a shrewd ploy from a coach who has taken his cue from Gerard Houllier's sympathetic approach to Heskey at Liverpool.

It would have brought tears to a glass eye to hear Eriksson almost talk in statesman-like terms about Heskey before the game.

It was slightly overdone in truth, but the end justified the means.

Heskey was peripheral before making England's third goal for Owen, but he grew in stature and rounded off the rout with the fifth for good measure.

Eriksson also ignored Nick Barmby's lack of first team action at Liverpool to recall him in the problem position on the left made vacant by Heskey's return to more familiar territory.

He was rewarded with a tireless effort that saw Barmby make Owen's crucial equaliser and cover well for Ashley Cole's attacking excursions.

And Eriksson will be rewarded with the credit he truly deserves - even from those who criticised his "foreigner" appointment in succession to Kevin Keegan.

Where were those misguided xenophobic critics in Munich? They were nowhere to be seen or heard.

Now that is a stroke of luck.


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