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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Seven days to make Sven weak
By John May

Sven-Goran Eriksson will never have known a week like it.

Sven-Goran Eriksson shows his frustration
What will go wrong next for Sven?
The countdown to England's biggest game since the World Cup quarter-final two years ago has been so shambolic that if it was a space mission, it would have been aborted by now.

England travel to Istanbul to face Turkey on Saturday needing at least a draw to qualify for Euro 2004.

But at the very time when minds should be focusing on the task in hand, there are more distractions than a box of fireworks being let off in an adjoining room.

England's build-up has been a catalogue of calamity, a register of rickets, a litany of lash-ups...


Rio Ferdinand's exclusion:
Who knows the true extent of the battle behind the scenes between Eriksson, who wanted Ferdinand to play, and the Football Association?

The FA would have faced not only ridicule but possible Uefa and Fifa sanctions had they allowed a coach and horses to be driven through accepted drug-testing policy.

But his exclusion sparked an unprecendented rebellion which has threatened England's international standing.

It also demonstrates in the players a similar arrogance as to that displayed by Ferdinand when he forgot to attend a routine drugs test.

Liverpool striker Michael Owen recieves attention
Could England win without Owen?
Michael Owen's injury:
The loss of their most potent striker would be a body blow.

Even if he is eventually passed fit to play, which looks increasingly unlikely, England's training and build-up has suffered disruption.

Sol Campbell's disciplinary hearing:
The Community Shield was back in August. Why did the FA decide to hold Campbell's hearing for his challenge on Eric Djemba-Djemba three months later, four days before a crunch match?

The Hooligan Element:
Eriksson's attempt to dissuade England fans from travelling by warning them they could die only turned into a ham-fisted swipe, upsetting the Turkish hosts and turning the temperature up a further notch.

The Sword of Damocles in the shape of possible Uefa expulsion still dangles threateningly over England.

Rooney's temper:
Everton striker Wayne Rooney
Rooney has shown an alarmingly short fuse to go with the combative side to his game.

His screwed face, running four-letter rant at referee Dermot Gallacher on Saturday made unpleasant viewing - except for Turkish defenders who know he can be wound up like a mantlepiece clock.

Eriksson's future:
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier took a swipe at the England coach over speculation linking Owen and Steven Gerrard to Chelsea, and Eriksson's at-times cosy relationship with Roman Abramovic.

Turkey coach Senol Gunes also weighed in with his two lira's worth, saying he would be glad to provide the defeat which could justify Eriksson jumping ship.

How likely are players to respond to demands from somebody they suspect might not be around much longer?

Think also of the effect on players like James Beattie and Darius Vassell of waiting to find out if they would be in the squad.

If, however, you subscribe to the Dunkirk Spirit view that the English are at their best when their backs are against the wall, then the countdown could not have been better designed to shove them up against the brickwork.







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