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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Sven's chess masters

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There is fresh evidence - if ever it were needed - of the profound cultural shift that the England team has undergone since Sven-Goran Eriksson took over.

England under Kevin Keegan were pilloried for their card schools as the team were unceremoniously dumped out of Euro 2000 after the group stage.

Talk was rife of up to 10,000 regularly changing hands as Keegan's troops developed team spirit by depriving each other of their not so hard-earned cash.

But under our ultra-placid Swede - and in their tranquil Japanese surrounds - the players have been killing time in a more gentrified, intellectual manner.

Yes, the England lads - known more for the nags, birds and late-night nightclub shenanigans - have taken to playing chess.

But when the players look at the black and white chequerboard, with which pieces can they identify?


The Queen

Can anyone other than our beloved David Beckham fill her shoes?

Well, we all know that the knickers fit - at least if she is the same size as Posh Spice.

And like the Queen, Goldenballs is our leader and just about the most powerful thing around.

The Queen is also the most extravagant piece on the board - and let's face it when it comes to style Becks is yards ahead.

There may be young pretenders to his crown - the likes of Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand - but for now Becks is undoubtedly the Queen.


The King

Maybe Sven himself identifies with the King.

After all, he is the only piece on the board that cannot be taken.

Having saved a nation by guiding the team to the finals and then survived the Ulrika business, Sven must be feeling pretty irremovable at the moment.

But a disastrous World Cup campaign and it could suddenly be a case of check-mate.


The Castle

Danny Mills is adept at running up and down the line
Fowler stops Mills running the only way he knows how
Hhhmmm. Moves very, very quickly in a straight line - pretty, much up and down all day long but without any variation.

That'll be Danny Mills with Emile Heskey a few yards behind (because he has just lost control of the ball and had to break stride).


The Knight

A long flowing mane points very much to David Seaman.

But can there be any doubt that England's Knight in shining armour is Michael Owen?

He might not be the biggest piece on the board but he always delivers.

If opposition defences let the little fella loose he'll be in your face in seconds and delivering the goods.


The Bishop

Clever, diagonal runs timed to perfection with the effect of catching the opposition unawares.

There are a few possibilities here - but Paul Scholes is undoubtedly the master.

And just like the Bishop, Scholes is a respected figure with quiet dignity - hence the ginger midfielder's reluctance to talk to the press.

Alternatively - since Bishops can travel extensive distances - maybe air-mile king Trevor Sinclair is in with a good shout.


The Pawns

In football - as in chess - the majority of the performers are not the star players but the foot soldiers.

England only have so many world class players in their squad.

But without the solid dependability of their staunch allies the creativity talent would not be able to express itself.

Liability Larry duo Gary and Phil Neville - true foot soldiers - are both injured.

But Wes Brown, Nicky Butt and Trevor Sinclair have shown every sign of being able to step into the breach.


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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