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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 3, 2006

Eriksson defends Defoe's omission

Sven-Goran Eriksson has defended his World Cup squad selection and suggested Jermain Defoe was not good enough to make it.

Eriksson hit back at accusations that he picked the wrong 23 players for the competition in Germany.

He has been criticised for leaving Defoe at home in favour of 17-year-old Theo Walcott but he does not regret his decision.

Eriksson said: 'I think you forget one important thing when you ask me if I regret my squad. Where are the other big strikers in England?

'I'm sure that I took the right players, absolutely. And not for my benefit but this will serve Walcott extremely well for the future.

'He has learned. He has been in a World Cup tournament, knowing how it is, that will be very good for him.

'Where are all the strikers who can score at this level?'

Defoe's name was thrown at the Swede. The Spurs striker had been on World Cup stand-by but went home when Wayne Rooney was declared fit.

Eriksson said: 'I don't think so. If I had thought so I would have picked him.

'I've seen him 15 or 20 times this season and I have to take the best players which I think will be good for us in the future.'

Walcott has not played a Premier League game but Eriksson decided to pluck him from Arsenal's reserves ahead of Defoe, who has 16 international caps.

The England manager claims he would do it all exactly the same way if he had another chance.

Eriksson said: 'The preparation was perfect, fitness levels were perfect, we handled the heat very well, we've been preparing and taking advice from specialists about the heat.

'The atmosphere and spirit in the group was fantastic and you could see it on the pitch. I wouldn't do anything different.'

England crashed out of the World Cup on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-final on Saturday.

It was a bitter blow for Eriksson and the Football Association who have insisted for several years that this would be England's best chance of glory since 1966.

Eriksson said: 'It will happen in the future. England is almost there.

'I was convinced this year was the right time. I was wrong and I'm sorry about that.

'It's the second time we lose in the penalty shoot-outs but, if you look at how we are playing and how the others are playing, England is not number two to anyone.'

Steve McClaren will take over from Eriksson on August 1.

He starts with a friendly at home to Greece on August 16 and then two Euro 2008 qualifiers in September.

Eriksson said: 'The players are there. They can win big tournaments.

'England have the players to win big tournaments. We should have done it this year but we didn't.

'The problem with international football is that the big tournaments are only every second year.

'It is a long time to wait for the next one. The next World Cup is four years.

'It's different when you talk about winning the Premier League, the Champions League or the UEFA Cup. You have that chance every year.

'It seems a long time and there are few occasions but England will win a big tournament.'