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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 June 2006, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Eriksson under the microscope
Freddie Ljungberg and Owen Hargreaves
Owen Hargreaves (right) impressed against Sweden
England topped their group to qualify for the second round of the World Cup, but their performances have certainly not been universally applauded.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's side have been workmanlike at best, occasionally lacklustre, and received a fright from Sweden before claiming the draw that ensured they topped their group.

Eriksson's squad selection has also been the subject of criticism, with Michael Owen's serious knee injury exposing the decision not to include a fifth striker.

Yet England have won their group despite not hitting top form to open up a less complicated route to the semi-finals. And there have been several personal success stories along the way.

This website's chief football writer Phil McNulty and former England manager Graham Taylor pick out their pluses and minuses from the campaign so far.


By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Baden-Baden

RESULTS

England topped their group, claimed a last-16 clash against Ecuador rather than Germany and opened up a seemingly less complicated and more restful route through the remainder of the tournament.

It at least sets the platform for serious progress - and the hope that an undoubtedly talented squad will grow into the World Cup as the knockout stages approach.

And there have been successes on a personal level that will delight Eriksson and offer optimism for the rest of the tournament...

JOE COLE

Joe Cole
Cole sparked England and lifted spirits against Sweden
The Chelsea midfielder has often been criticised as an over-elaborate enigma, but anyone who has witnessed him in action on and off the pitch in Germany cannot fail to have been impressed.

Cole has spoken with maturity and modesty, an attitude he has taken on to the pitch, especially against Sweden.

He will be remembered for his stunning first-half goal, but his whole display - particularly in the opening 45 minutes - was outstanding.

Cole sparked England and lifted spirits after the early blow of Michael Owen's dreadful injury, running Niclas Alexandersson ragged and giving the side an urgency and tempo they lacked in their first two games against Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago.

And in the second half, with England under severe pressure, he provided a right-wing cross for Steven Gerrard to head the crucial second goal.

OWEN HARGREAVES

His selection was a mystery to many of us - not as a personal criticism of the player, but as a pick from Eriksson that unbalanced the squad.

But there was humble pie all round for quite a few of us after his performance against Sweden.

He was only edged out by Cole as England's best player, clearing up danger with the minimum of fuss and showing outstanding energy and mobility in the holding midfield role.

Hard-working Hargreaves allowed Frank Lampard licence to give England a more attacking edge, paving the way for the Chelsea star to play his more natural, expansive game.

The Bayern midfield man has fully earned his place against Ecuador, although it now appears he will have to show his versatility in support of David Beckham at right-back, replacing the unlucky Jamie Carragher.

One more point on Hargreaves.

Watch out for him being given a man-marking role on Ronaldinho if England face Brazil. This is very much in Eriksson's thoughts should England play the favourites.

STEVEN GERRARD

He is, in my opinion, the best midfielder in the world, and has a track record for delivering on the big occasions.

Now we are reaching the sharp end of the World Cup, don't bet against him rising to the occasion as he did in Istanbul and Cardiff.


By Graham Taylor
Former England manager and Five Live summariser

TAKING ONLY FOUR STRIKERS

Having been in the position of England manager, I know how easy it is to criticise Eriksson.

But I'm not jumping on any bandwagon when I say how much the composition of the squad has surprised me. I've said it from day one.

In Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, he picked two strikers who were injured at the time.

For his third forward he chose Peter Crouch, who by Eriksson's own admission was going to be used as a substitute to come on and change the the game.

Then, amazingly, he chose a 17-year-old who he'd never seen play live. I find that an incredible decision to make.

This could be a decision that comes back to haunt not just Sven, but England supporters for another 40 years.

POSSIBLY PLAYING MIDFIELDERS IN ATTACK

Eriksson thinks a couple of his midfielders can play as support strikers if needed. This partly explains why he only picked four strikers in the squad.

But it is a risk.

Joe Cole can play that role, but it would mean altering the whole team to accommodate him.

Steven Gerrard can bomb on, but playing that role is a totally different position and you have to learn it.

Sven is making out he's not concerned, but if we did a lie detector test you might find out he thinks he made a mistake.

TAKING THEO WALCOTT

I expected Walcott to appear against Sweden, but in Eriksson's defence, his first two substitutions were forced on him.

We go into the knockout stages not having seen Walcott play

Graham Taylor
Then the game became tight and at one point it looked like England could lose so he had to bring Steven Gerrard on.

But it means we go into the knockout stage not having seen the young Arsenal striker play.

TOO MUCH DEVOTION TOWARD BECKHAM

All I can say is that if anybody expects Eriksson to unload his captain now, they're whistling in the wind!

SEE ALSO
England v Ecuador
23 Jun 06 |  World Cup 2006
Ecuador uncovered
22 Jun 06 |  Ecuador
England's second-half struggles
23 Jun 06 |  England
BBC pundits on England's defence
22 Jun 06 |  England
Pick your England team
08 May 06 |  Squad selectors
England team guide
22 May 06 |  England
World Cup schedule
25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
28 Apr 06 |  Football
BBC World Cup coverage
27 Apr 06 |  BBC coverage


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