Sven-Göran Eriksson said today that England would have to improve their defending at set-pieces or else risk going out of UEFA EURO 2004™ when they face Portugal in tomorrow's quarter-final.
The match is eagerly awaited by both the home nation and the vast army of travelling England fans. The setting could not be better with the Estádio da Luz staging its last game before the final itself. But against a backdrop of rising English confidence Eriksson sounded a warning bell.
"I am happy with what we have done so far, the only thing we have to do better is with our defending on set-pieces," he said. "Against Croatia they had two wide free-kicks and scored two goals.
"Hopefully we can do better starting tomorrow. We have only conceded goals from set-pieces so far [in the first game France's goals came via a free-kick and a penalty] and in one way it's good. But in another way we have to do better."
No new injuries
Once again England have no injury worries apart from Nicky Butt so Eriksson is in the fortunate position of selecting his strongest eleven for the third successive match. David Beckham sustained an ankle knock against Croatia but it is not a serious concern.
Expectations in the England camp have centred on the remarkable achievements of Wayne Rooney who has scored two goals in each of the last two games. Eriksson said it would be unreasonable to expect the Everton FC teenager to repeat the trick again tomorrow. "I'm sure he will play very well again but to expect him to score a couple of goals every game, that's asking too much. If he scores one or none we have to accept that."
Captain David Beckham remains unmoved by criticism of his form and said he hoped it continues through to 4 July because that would mean England have a place in the final. "I am happy with my own performances," he said. "There is always going to be criticism but I am strong enough to take it. If people are saying that until the end of the competition that's fine."
Beckham makes England favourites to progress. "I am biased but you have to feel confident going into a game like this" he added. "We have learned from our experiences in big competitions in the past and losing to Brazil [in the 2002 FIFA World Cup quarter-final] was the biggest lesson of all."
Finally, the English Football Association has asked UEFA if the team can wear black armbands during the match as a mark of respect for the English fan who was stabbed to death in a Lisbon square in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
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