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Aug 5, 2011

Eriksson: England expects too much

Sven-Goran Eriksson insists the English expect too much from their national team and maintains that the lack of a winter break will always hinder the team in major tournaments.

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Eriksson was appointed England manager in 2001 but, although he attracted early praise for leading the country to 2002 World Cup qualification, he was criticised for failing to take the 'Golden Generation' beyond the quarter-finals at any of the three tournaments during his tenure.

With Steve McClaren then failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and Fabio Capello overseeing a dismal 2010 World Cup, though, Eriksson feels perceptions of his reign may now be improving.

"I am getting better and better! Of course, I laugh about that," he told the Daily Telegraph. "The expectations on England are too high. Before the big tournaments start, the expectation with England builds up and up and up, and you are more less world champions before you have kicked a ball. I don't know whether it is to do with '66 but you build the players up too much."

Eriksson is not alone in advancing the theory that the lack of a winter break in the Premier League means the England players cannot match their opponents' fitness come the summer.

"It's more difficult for England than other countries to do well in a big tournament. You have to have a break. You need to give every Premier League player seven days away to fly to wherever they want. They can have sunshine, relax and then one week of preparation and then start again.

"Owen Hargreaves was the fittest [in tests before the 2002 World Cup] because he had the long winter break [with Bayern Munich]. UEFA did medical research into injuries in the big leagues in Europe from March 1 to the end of the season. England were higher with injuries than anyone else [by four to one]. You don't learn, because the Premier League want games to be played all the time, so people can watch it everywhere.''

Despite the criticism he has faced, Eriksson, now managing Leicester in the Championship, has no regrets over his time as England manager. He even believes he would have stood an excellent chance of taking England to the final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany had Wayne Rooney not been sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho during the quarter-final against Portugal, which ended in a penalty shootout defeat.

"I loved every second of being England manager. The English are obsessed with football,'' he said. ''That's why managers want to work in this country. Someone told me that the Championship is the fourth most-supported league in the world. And it's the second division.''

He added: "Being England manager is not an impossible job, absolutely not. It was fun. In 2004, we were not far away. In 2006, we should have done better. We should have made the final. The worst moment in my career was to lose that penalty shoot-out in Germany.

"If you have 11 players on the pitch it would have been better. What should I tell Rooney? Start to scream at him? I tried to tell him that it was not the most clever thing to do. Stand up and defend yourself, and learn from this.

"I said to you reporters 'don't kill Rooney'. It could have been very easy for you to kill him. Don't kill him, kill me. You don't need me anymore. You need Rooney if you are to win a big tournament."

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