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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
England back in UK

By Phil McNulty
Our man with England

Sven-Goran Eriksson
England arrived back at Luton on Friday evening with coach Sven-Goran Eriksson defending his tactics after crashing out of Euro 2004 to hosts Portugal.

Eriksson's side went out 6-5 on penalties after the sides drew 2-2.

The Swede was criticised for being too negative, taking off Paul Scholes for Phil Neville early in the second half and also substituting Steven Gerrard.

But he said: "I wouldn't change anything selection-wise. That was our best 11."

Eriksson added: "The legs of Scholes did not last 90 minutes and Gerrard had cramp so we had to change. There were moments when many were tired.

"They were 1-0 down and they gambled. They had a lot of players up front and if we were fresher we could have scored on the counter attack."

England landed at Luton airport at 1830 BST but were ushered off their flight in secret, away from a modest crowd of about 100 flag-waving fans.

I will have no regrets at the end of my career
David Beckham

The move angered some fans, who claimed their heroes had snubbed them.

"All parties had stressed to fans earlier in the day that, because of security concerns, it was impossible for the squad to come through the terminal building after landing," said FA director of communications Colin Gibson.

"The players, each and every one of them, have appreciated the incredible backing they have received from the fans during the past three weeks," he added.

Eriksson remained positive despite the disappointment, saying: "We have shown many times we are one of the best teams. We can beat any team.

"And Wayne Rooney is now a big star, not just in England but in European and world football.
England players and wives leave the plane
Players did not meet waiting fans because of security concerns

"I hope he goes on like this and recovers from his injury in time for the start of the season."

England captain David Beckham, meanwhile, also defended himself against criticism, reacting angrily when it was suggested he might give up the role.

And he insisted he will bounce back from a poor tournament and the disappointment of missing his third successive England penalty in the crucial shoot-out.

He said: "I will never have any regrets. People who ask questions like that will write what they want anyway.

"I believe I will have no regrets at the end of my career. I always give as much as I can in games and that's good enough for me.

"If it's not good enough for other people, that won't affect me.

"The biggest positives are the fans and Wayne Rooney, and also I think Ashley Cole's performance was one of the best I've seen for England. He did not deserve to be on the losing side.

"There was the disappointment of Wayne getting the injury. It was a sad ending to three games where he has been unbelievable."





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