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WORLDCUP

Svennis says sorry to England

An apologetic Sven-Göran Eriksson brought the curtain down on his five-and-a-half year reign as England manager Sunday, expressing regret for failing to deliver on his vow to win the World Cup.

The bitterly disappointed Swede said ‘sorry’ no fewer than seven times as he reflected on England’s heartbreaking quarter-final exit to Portugal on Saturday in a farewell press conference.

Eriksson said two factors were to blame for the defeat: the pivotal red card for Wayne Rooney and the failure of his players to convert their penalties.

In the final analysis, he said, England had only themselves to blame.

“I think we should be doing the warm down now and looking forward to the semi-final,” Eriksson said. “But we’re not, and we have to blame ourselves because I don’t think we should be going home today.

“But that’s life and you have to accept it. It will take a long time for it to sink in and I’m sorry – I’m really sorry for the squad, and I’m sorry for all the England fans. They deserved something better.”

“If you see the teams in the semi-finals, we should be there. And I’m sorry for all England, for the team, for the fans, and for you (the media) a little bit that we’re not there.”

“We had a very good chance, the opportunity was there, but we didn’t take it. I’m sorry about that.”

Eriksson said he had replayed the match in his mind but he was certain that it was Rooney’s dismissal and poor penalties that were the over-riding reason for the loss.

“Every time you don’t win a football game as a manager, you think about about what you could have done, to maybe win,” Eriksson said.

“But it was about two things yesterday – a red card and penalties, he added, saying he was at a loss to understand why England had such trouble converting their spot-kicks.

“Why we don’t get the penalties right I really don’t know,” he said.

“We’ve been practicing penalties for five six weeks now, more or less every day. In our final shoot-out, the opponents missed two out of five so you’d think we have a good chance.

“But we missed three out of four, which is very poor.”

Eriksson said he was not sure how history would judge his tenure but said he would like to be remembered as an honest coach.

“I wished to be judged an honest man who tried to do his best, that’s it,” he said. “If three quarter-finals is good enough or not … well, the two quarter-finals were good enough, this is not good enough.

Eriksson has attracted legions of critics for having pocketed around 20 million pounds for his spell in one of the most demanding jobs in football.

But the Swede defended his generous salary, believed to be the most well-paid in international management.

“I think other managers are paid well at this level,” he said. “I’ve never understood why international managers should not be as well paid as a club manager. I’m not the best paid manager in the world.

“There are others earning more as a manager of a club than I do. It’s better that you judge whether you’ve got value for money.”

Eriksson, who has been linked to various management jobs, including a possible vacancy at Real Madrid, declined to speculate on his immediate future.

“I’m going to take a holiday,” he said. “Whether it’s two weeks or a year I don’t know.”

FOOTBALL

Swedish press hails ‘miracle in Berlin’

Sweden's stunning four-goal comeback to salvage a 4-4 draw against Germany in Berlin on Tuesday night prompted commentators to gush over what many considered an improbable footballing "miracle".

Swedish press hails 'miracle in Berlin'

After an hour of football, Sweden found themselves nursing a four-goal deficit and many fans wondered how bad the night would end.

But a beautiful goal off a header by captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd minute sparked an unprecedented comeback for the Swedes, capped by Rasmus Elm’s game-tying goal in extra time, allowing the squad to leave the pitch with an unexpected draw against a team ranked second in the world.

“I’ve never watched a national team that was so totally outplayed then comeback and salvage a point,” crowed Expressen columnist Marcus Birro.

“A miracle. A total Miracle. With a capital M.”

Birro argued that Sweden’s footballers deserved “the Nobel Prize in everything”, before reflecting on whether Tuesday’s performance might prompt largely secular Swedes to reexamine their religious beliefs.

“According to several studies, Swedes don’t believe in God. How is that possible? Can anyone who saw the miracle in Berlin seriously claim that God doesn’t exist?” he asked

Johan Esk, sports columnist at broadsheet Dagens Nyheter (DN), spared no hyperbole in claiming the 4-4 draw was “Sweden’s biggest upset in footballing history”.

“Sweden created a bomb that will be heard throughout the footballing world,” he continued.

“Sweden went from being outplayed, outclassed, laughable bystanders to shocking heroes.”

According to Esk, Sweden “taught Germany and the entire footballing world that it doesn’t matter what the score is or what name is on the back of the opponents’ shirts”.

“Those who give up never have a chance. Those who never give up always have a chance to succeed. No matter how awful things look,” he wrote.

A jubilant Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, captured on film in the stands pumping his fists in a fit of football euphoria while a dejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on, also praised the performance of Sweden’s national side.

“It was totally improbable,” he told the TT news agency following the match.

“I don’t know if Germany has ever lost a four goal lead before in one half at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.”

Meanwhile, Erik Niva, football columnist with tabloid Aftonbladet took aim at German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s collapse, which saw the normally solid performer let in four goals in thirty minutes.

“On a normal day at work, Manuel Neuer exudes self-confidence. Now he couldn’t catch a beachball,” wrote Niva.

He hailed Sweden’s performance as “one of the most improbably I’ve experienced in my life with Swedish football”.

The press in Germany also lambasted their national team’s performance, with Der Spiegel kicking off the criticism with the headline “60 minutes of heaven, 30 minutes of hell.”

READ MORE PRESS REACTION FROM GERMANY ON WWW.THELOCAL.DE

Columnist Mats Olsson from Expressen proclaimed the away draw against Germany was in a class by itself when it came to sporting “miracles”.

“For 45 minutes the Swedish national team looked like hedgehogs that had been paralyzed by a car’s headlights,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a sicker, more wild and wonderful match.”

The Local/dl

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