Sven-Göran Eriksson said today that England could be proud of their performance at UEFA EURO 2004™ and should not consider that they have underachieved following the quarter-final defeat by Portugal.
"The players did justice to themselves," said Eriksson, who confirmed that he will stay on as England coach. "The players lost on penalties after extra time and they should be proud of themselves and I hope the fans are proud of them. It will take more than 24 hours to get over it, losing like we did yesterday is extremely hard."
The Swede said that the evidence at this tournament and at the FIFA World Cup two years ago showed that England were "very close" to emerging victorious. "We lost against Brazil two years ago and they went on to win the World Cup. Here, against France we should have won that game and we did some stupid mistakes. The difference between winning and losing is almost nothing and hopefully we will have a little more luck in the future."
World Cup looming
Both Eriksson and David Beckham left no one in any doubt that they wanted to remain in their respective roles. "I have no other plans and there is a world championship in two years' time," said Eriksson, "I want to stay if it is the wish of the English people and of the FA."
Beckham responded angrily to a suggestion that as captain he was no longer able to inspire his team. "I will not be resigning my position" he said. "I love it as England captain and I love playing football, that's the most important thing to me. I'm a strong person and every time someone hits me with criticism I come back fighting."
Beckham said he believed this England team "could still go far" and they will hope that Wayne Rooney, whose four goals helped to carry them beyond the group stage, will have recovered from the broken foot sustained last night in time for the start of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers in the autumn.
"He is supposed to be out for six weeks," said Eriksson of Rooney. "It is more or less the same [metatarsal] injury that happened to David Beckham two years ago."
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