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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
Sven's sorry exit

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Gelsenkirchen

Sven-Goran Eriksson
Eriksson set his sights on glory, but ultimately failed to deliver
Sven-Goran Eriksson was sorry for England's failure at the World Cup. In fact he was so sorry he repeated how sorry he was nine times to make the point.

Sorry England had lost on penalties. Sorry England had not won the World Cup. Sorry England had not done better. Sorry for the fans, squad and even the media - although he stressed only a little bit.

It was a comprehensive apology for an apology of a World Cup campaign.

Eriksson's words cut little ice and did not bear close examination, because events in Germany have summed up his reign and ensured his apologies had a distinctly hollow ring.

England's hopes were hyped to the maximum, by the players as well as the media, and yet Eriksson presided over a failure that was not even heroic compared to past exits on penalties.

Eriksson looked genuinely upset as he bade his farewells to Baden Baden earlier than he planned.

What he hoped would be a warm-down with his players after a glorious victory against Portugal was replaced by a grilling from his long-time inquisitors.

Eriksson departs after five-and-a-half years with England cementing a reputation as world football's flatliners.

Reach the last eight and get knocked out - the quarter-final coach remained true to his old traditions right to the end.

He has been paid well in excess of 20m by the Football Association and the price on the ticket was a major trophy in the cupboard at Soho Square.

Theo Walcott
Selecting Walcott eventually left Eriksson short of strikers

Eriksson has not even come close to cashing in, and that is why he must leave with the label of expensive failure.

He has made mistakes, but he saved some of his worst for a World Cup in which England were handed the group from heaven and a less-than-hazardous path to glory.

Eriksson's original squad was almost an act of black comedy.

Seemingly flummoxed by how to cope with Wayne Rooney's injury, he conjured up Theo Walcott from Arsenal's reserves, a player he had never seen in action.

Nothing could justify the selection other than it was a hunch or a whim. A hunch or a whim exposed as a crass error as Walcott became the Lord Lucan of England's World Cup campaign.

No emergency in Germany, and there were a few, was ever dire enough to persuade Eriksson to call on Walcott.

It was a bad decision then and it was a bad decision throughout a campaign when Walcott was little more than a mascot.

When Walcott revealed he was making a video diary of his World Cup, a suggested title was "What I Did On My Holidays".

Eriksson has never made a convincing case for leaving Jermain Defoe at home, and to pack his midfield with Jermaine Jenas, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves was the worst sort of folly.

Two from those three yes, but not all.

The squad was unbalanced from the start, and in the case of the blameless Walcott, contained a player who has done little more than go on a travelling trip around Germany.

Eriksson never went to this World Cup with a consistent and considered game plan.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard
Sven never did get the best out of Lampard and Gerrard

He never addressed the issue of a midfield that never functioned, where the idea of dropping David Beckham was the great unmentionable and the partnership of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard never came off.

The Swede's sudden adoption of a 4-1-4-1 system, this from a man steeped in 4-4-2, was doomed and did little other than remove Rooney's real threat when he was actually fit.

Off the pitch he showed great resolve in standing up to Manchester United over Rooney's injury, and there was no more confident coach in Germany.

And yet when the crunch came, he was still the same conservative Eriksson.

In the wider picture, Eriksson's experimentation in friendlies over his tenure amount to little other than a devaluation of precious England caps.

He was caught in the headlights when things went wrong against Brazil in Japan in 2002 and against Portugal two years later.

For a coach who forged a reputation as a deep thinker at clubs such as Lazio, he showed an alarming inability to change games from the bench.

Eriksson says he wishes to be remembered as an honest man who did his best, and there is no reason to argue otherwise.

What is more important, however, is that he will be remembered as a failure and a mighty pricey one at that.

He can say sorry all he likes but nothing can save him from the verdict English football history will deliver on him.

Namely, that in every major competition when the pressure was on Eriksson to justify his reputation and deliver what the nation craves, he came up short every time.



SEE ALSO
Experts slam Sven
01 Jul 06 |  England
Terry Butcher's England view
02 Jul 06 |  England
Eriksson's England time in photos
24 Jan 06 |  Photo Galleries
Beckham quits as England captain
02 Jul 06 |  England
Final whistle sounds for Eriksson
01 Jul 06 |  Internationals
England beaten on penalties again
01 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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