Eriksson has a few England places still open

Steven Gerrard in England ShirtSven-Goran Eriksson says he’s already made his mind up about the
biggest part of his England squad for this summer’s World Cup –
injuries excepted. The manager of the English national team is to leave
his post at the end of the tournament, and so is perhaps a little more
keen than previously to see his squad do well in Germany. Eriksson was
at Anfield yesterday for the Liverpool v Manchester City game, where he
must surely have been impressed by Peter Crouch. Jamie Carragher was
suspended for that game, but Steven Gerrard played in the centre of
midfield, a rarity this season.

Eriksson explained: “The door is open to everyone but if everyone is
fit then I am quite sure of 19 or 20 at least.” Eriksson himself has a
role to play in ensuring everyone is kept fit. Rafael Benitez asked
Eriksson to be careful and considerate over the Reds captain – Gerrard
has been involved in virtually every game of Liverpool elongated
season, one that started on July 13th. Eriksson already knows he’s
going to be taking Gerrard to Germany – but if Gerrard isn’t fit he’ll
lose out. Rafa would like to see Stevie given a rest for the England
friendly at Anfield on Wednesday, but Eriksson has yet to say what
he’ll do about Stevie.

Jamie Carragher has also played extensively for the Reds this season, he only missed out on Sunday due to suspension. Carragher has cemented his reputation as one of the best centre-halves in the country and now Eriksson should be considering seriously whether he would make a good first-choice centre-back. Sol Campbell has found himself unable to recover fully from injury problems and Rio Ferdinand has had a mixed season.

The Swede says that he thinks he can get England to the semi-finals at the very least, an improvement on the quarter final defeat to Brazil four years ago: “Hopefully we will go further than that and I am quite sure we will, because I am very confident. I am more confident now than four years ago and two years ago because the squad is much stronger.”

It was thanks to the FA and their decision not to act within the spirit of the Champions League qualification rules that Liverpool have had such a long season. Liverpool have already played more games this season than Tottenham will have played by the end of the season, but Eriksson is worried that players from all clubs could be tired: “The only thing which I always say is hopefully there will not be a lot of injuries and too many tired players but we have one extra week so that will be good. You have to remember we are not the only team at the World Cup; there are teams like Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Holland and so on. I always said I think we are one of four or five teams that could win it and I believe that very strongly.”

England will be wearing a brand-new away kit for the game at Anfield on Wednesday, and appropriately enough for a game at the home of the most famous Reds in the world the new kits are red. Former Red Michael Owen was one of the players modelling the shirts at the official launch earlier today; he likened it to the shirts worn by England in 1966.