There is understandable satisfaction in the England camp after booking their place in the quarter-finals with a four-goal display against Croatia but amidst the soaring confidence manager Sven-Göran Eriksson raised a concern by highlighting the close proximity of their quarter-final game with Portugal.
England have just a two-day break before they tackle the host nation at the Estádio da Luz in the first UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-final. Eriksson said: "The only thing we have to cope with now is that we have to try and recover as quickly as possible after these 90 minutes against Croatia. That is the most important thing because we have a day less than Portugal."
After losing their opening fixture to France in such extraordinary circumstances, England have scored seven goals to inspire hopes that they could emerge as European champions for the first time. They also have the star of the tournament so far in Wayne Rooney, who scored twice in both the victories over Switzerland and Croatia.
Eriksson said no teenager has made such an impact in the game worldwide since Pelé first revealed his unique talents at the 1958 FIFA World Cup. "What can I say about him which has not already been said," said Eriksson. "He has scored two goals again today and they were fantastic goals, both of them."
Eriksson added: "But he is also doing hard work for the team, dropping deep, always available to play the ball to. He helps us defensively as well so he is absolutely fantastic." The England manager also said that his England team are becoming increasingly difficult to beat.
The quarter-final against Portugal, meanwhile, brings David Beckham face to face with his Real Madrid CF team-mate Luís Figo while England's Manchester United FC contingent will need no reminding of the threat posed by the mesmeric Cristiano Ronaldo.
"The Portuguese players are technically very good and they have pace in the team," Eriksson said. "It is a terrific game in prospect." The game against Portugal sees England contest a second phase game in a UEFA European Championship held on foreign soil for the first time ever. In 1980, 1988, 1992 and 2000, England failed to qualify from the group stage.
*The England squad have sent a message of condolence to relatives of the fan who was killed in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The 27-year-old was stabbed in a Lisbon square after chasing a pickpocket.
Mark Palios, chief executive of the Football Association, said in a statement: "On behalf of the FA and the England team, I would like to express our condolences to the family and friends of the English fan who was so tragically killed here in Portugal last night. Like so many others, he was here to support his team and provide the magnificent support that we have seen here. His loss will be deeply felt by the England team and everyone connected with English football."
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