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Sven-Göran Eriksson backs England to win the World Cup, and reveals his biggest regret as Three Lions boss

FORMER England boss Sven-Göran Eriksson is backing the Three Lions to win the World Cup in Qatar.

The 74-year-old football manager believes Gareth Southgate’s side go into the tournament with a huge chance because the tournament is not happening AFTER an energy-zapping and arduous Premier League season.

Ex-England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson is backing the Three Lions to win the World Cup

Drawing on his own experience of coaching our country at three major tournaments, Sven also accepted we under-achieved at the 2006 World Cup – reaching the quarter-finals in Germany.

His biggest regret in the job came that year, when he decided against bringing in a mental coach to work with the players. Famously, England crashed out to Portugal in a penalty shootout.

Speaking to SunSport, Sven revealed: “This World Cup is not after a long, hard, tough Premier League season. It’s at the beginning of the season.

“I don’t think these English players are more tired than anyone else, whether that’s players from Germany, France, or wherever.

“It’s strange that the World Cup is in winter time and it is being played without any preparation, like friendly games.

“But maybe it’s good for England because they are not half-dead from the Premier League season.

Spurs manager Antonio Conte may disagree. Before the last weekend of Premier League fixtures ahead of the World Cup break, the Italian revealed England talisman Harry Kane was “really, really tired.”

Eriksson felt that was “strange” given we’re not even halfway through the campaign.

But, if he was in charge, he would have a plan to combat a star player’s fatigue.

“Not even half of the Premier League season is done yet, so I think that’s a little bit strange,” Eriksson said.

“If he needs a couple of days extra rest, give him, because he’s a key player if England want to win the World Cup.

“I would take the player privately and see how he is. I would put him with my fitness coach to see how he would train to be as good as possible for the first game.”

In the midst of a betting scandal, in-form Brentford striker Ivan Toney was snubbed from Southgate’s World Cup squad.

Eriksson joked it was “destiny” that just days after the England squad was announced, Toney would score twice to down Manchester City at the Etihad.

But Eriksson argued: “Whatever Southgate does, he will be criticised and people will ask, ‘Why didn’t you take Toney’

“But I think you should also say, ‘Who are you going to take out?’ If you take Toney in, you have to take someone out which is not easy.”

Ivan Toney was snubbed by Southgate for England’s World Cup squad
James Maddison was a surprise inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad

One surprise inclusion was James Maddison, who England fans have been crying out for after a stunning start to the season with Leicester.

Eriksson called Southgate’s decision to include the in-form midfielder a no-brainer, believing he could make an impact as a substitute.

“Maddison may be a little bit of a surprise but I think he is one of those players who has been in good shape in the Premier League this season,” he said.

“At this time I think that’s important, because there is no preparation between the Premier League finishing and the World Cup starting.

“It’s important to pick players who are in good shape.

“Probably not starting, but having a player like him on the bench is very important.”

Harry Maguire’s form, though, will be a concern for Southgate. The Manchester United defender was perhaps picked out of loyalty, after struggling at Old Trafford where he has been frozen out of Erik ten Hag’s team.

Of Maguire, Sven said: “I don’t see him training, so it’s a difficult one.

“When he played for Leicester he was number one in the country, but probably because Leicester defended much deeper than Manchester United.

“What happened now, he’s not a regular with Manchester United, he maybe lost confidence, it’s very difficult to know exactly what happened.

“If you look at him during the last games for the national team and compare that to how he was when he played for Leicester, that’s two different players.

“But, from the outside it’s dangerous to have an opinion. How Southgate is going to handle it, I don’t know. He picked Maguire because he trusts him otherwise he wouldn’t have been picked.”

Eriksson understands the pressure of being England manager at a major tournament
John Terry and Eriksson look on in despair after their World Cup quarter-final exit in 2006 against Portugal on penalties

The expectation on Southgate’s men, after a semi-final appearance at the 2018 World Cup and making the final in the Euros, is for England now to go one further. With that comes pressure.

“One thing is important. When you have a team that has a lot of pressure on them, you have a good team. If there’s no pressure, you don’t have a good team,” Eriksson said.

“I think Southgate can handle it. Of course, after the last two big tournaments, the expectation is now to go to the final and to win it.

“What happens if we don’t reach the quarter-final. Well, that’s football. I don’t think Southgate or anyone will think about that.

“In my case, I had three big tournaments with England. The last one, a quarter-final, was not good enough. And I agree, it wasn’t good enough. We should have done better.

“I was sacked for other reasons, but I would have been sacked anyhow for only reaching the quarter-final.”

In Gelsenkirchen, at the 2006 World Cup, England were famously dumped out of the competition on penalties.

Sven’s side failed to convert three of their four penalties, before losing 3-1.

The tactician’s greatest regret is not hiring a psychologist to help his players cope in such a situation.

“I should have taken a mental coach for England in 2006,” Sven accepted.

“I thought about it, the coaching team and I talked about it. But in the end, we decided that team, which was very experienced, didn’t need it.

“I regret that. That’s the thing I regret the most. But it will make you crazy if you think about every time you didn’t win a football game. If you got the chance to do it again, maybe you wouldn’t do the same thing.”

The bookies don’t see a clear favourite – with any one of six teams in with a chance of winning the 2022 World Cup.

Eriksson consoles Steven Gerrard who missed a penalty against Portugal
Eriksson regrets not hiring a mental coach to help his players cope with the demands of a potential shootout
Eriksson has partnered up with Toshiba and their Toshiba Fire TV campaign

Sven, who has partnered up with Toshiba sees it the same way, but has tipped England to come good.

“Among the favourites, England is one of them. They can do it,” he said.

“It’s similar to 2006. Before that World Cup, I thought we could win it. I couldn’t see any other teams better than us. And I think it’s the same now.

Brazil is strong, Argentina is strong, and France, of course, they won it last time.

“Germany, Spain… but England is as strong as them, at least on paper. Then we shall see what happens at the World Cup.

“Maybe it will be a Brazil v England final? If England don’t win, I think Brazil could. They have a lot of strong football players playing in Europe. But England has a good chance.”

“Sven-Göran Eriksson surprised fans at a Toshiba watchparty, after research found 45% of fans plan to watch this winter’s tournament on TV from home – with more than one in ten set to pick up a new TV ready for the football. See more @ToshibaTVEurope.”

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