SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - There may be less pressure on England than at previous tournaments, but former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson says they’d still hate to lose their World Cup quarter-final against his native Sweden on Saturday.
The 70-year-old led England through the World Cup finals in 2002 and 2006, losing on penalties in the quarter-finals on both occasions, and he feels that the more reasonable expectations of the current side will allow them to perform better.
“Before I was the national team coach, the demand was that you would get to the final and preferably win it, but if you got to the final it would be OK - a quarter-final was useless,” he told Swedish state broadcaster SVT in an interview.
“That has changed in England. Now if you’d asked the English before the tournament about the quarter-finals, they’d have said ‘Perfect’.
“That means that the pressure on this English generation is less than before. I think they’ve shown that also when they play, they’re more relaxed, which is very good for England,” he told SVT.
Despite only losing five competitive games, Eriksson’s time in charge was a rollercoaster ride, with superb performances on the field marred by scandals and tabloid stings off it.
The former coach would probably relish a shot at the draw that England have ahead of them, with first the Swedes and then either Croatia or Russia standing between them and a place in the final.
“Deep down I think England have one eye on the semi-final and maybe they believe a little bit that they can get to the final,” Eriksson said, before warning that England cannot afford to lose to Janne Andersson’s side.
“They’re going to feel terrible. It’s much, much worse for England to lose this match than for Sweden,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson