ENGLAND vs SWEDEN
ENGLAND’S John Terry insists he is ready to resume the captaincy tonight despite his position being under threat from investigations into claims he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
The Football Association (FA) prevented Terry from answering questions about the accusations, which he has strenuously denied, as he faced the media for the first time since the alleged incident last month.
But the Chelsea skipper, who will return to the England side against Sweden tonight after sitting out Saturday’s win over Spain, spoke freely enough to brush aside concerns he could be distracted by the storm.
“I’m in a great state of mind and focused on training,” said Terry, who is being investigated by police and the FA. “From my point of view, nothing’s changed at all. I think the players have showed we’re united no matter what and put in a very good performance [against Spain].”
England manager Fabio Capello, who rested Terry at the weekend in order, he said, to test out different defensive combinations, was equally dismissive of questions about his frame of mind. “He’s here. He will be with us. He will be the captain,” said the Italian. Terry admitted he feared for his place in the side, after central defensive duo Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott excelled in his absence against the world and European champions.
“I don’t feel undroppable,” he added. “I’ve never thought that with England or Chelsea. If my form’s not good enough the manager is big enough to drop anyone, as we’ve seen. Every game we all feel we are playing for our places. When you play for your country you can never take a game lightly.”
Capello and the FA resisted calls to omit Terry from the squad while he was under investigation, following the reasoning that the 30-year-old remains innocent until proven guilty. It is thought the Metropolitan Police investigation could run into December.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has stated his complete support for Terry and former Blues assistant Ray Wilkins spoke out yesterday to defend the Stamford Bridge stalwart.
“There is no way on God’s planet he is a racist, no way whatsoever. And I will back John 100 per cent,” said Wilkins, who worked with Terry for two years until December 2010.
“I’ve no idea how this mess has arisen but I’m stating from what I know of the man he is not a racist. I would think my view is shared by all of his colleagues at Chelsea.
“John is the captain of Chelsea and has been for years, and it’s probably the most multi-cultural club in world football. There’s no way he could lead those guys and look them in the face if he was a racist.”
TEAM NEWS | HOW ENGLAND COULD LINE UP
Fabio Capello has already declared his intention to shuffle the pack after Saturday’s energy-sapping win over Spain. Despite the world champions enjoying the majority of possession, Joe Hart was hardly tested and is likely to retain his place in goal. John Terry and Gary Cahill, who impressed in Bulgaria last month, will take over in central defence in place of two of Saturday’s star performers Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka. It would take a huge dip in form for Ashley Cole to be usurped by Leighton Baines ahead of next summer, but on the other flank Kyle Walker (above) must harbour realistic hopes of dislodging Capello’s preferred choice at right-back Glen Johnson. In midfield Frank Lampard played less than an hour against Spain and could retain his place, while Capello will be interested to see whether Gareth Barry can reproduce the sort of all action display which won Scott Parker so many plaudits at the weekend. Both Theo Walcott and Stewart Downing were starved of possession against Spain, but the onus will be on them to provide crosses for target man Bobby Zamora to feed on in his first appearance since August 2010.
MEMORABLE MEETINGS | ENGLAND V SWEDEN
Sweden 2–1 England, Jun 1992
England looked on course to gain the victory they needed to qualify for the semi-finals of Euro 92 when David Platt volleyed Graham Taylor’s side into an early lead. But roared on by a passionate home crowd Sweden responded after the break with goals from Jan Eriksson and Thomas Brolin, before Taylor infamously brought on Alan Smith in place of Gary Lineker, who would never play for England again.
Sweden 2–1 England, Sep 1998
Qualification for the European championships got off to the best possible start when Alan Shearer fired Glenn Hoddle’s side ahead in the first minute. But a side lacking David Beckham – suspended following his World Cup red card against Argentina a few months earlier – were unable to hold on, and goals from Andreas Andersson and Johan Mjallby secured another comeback win for the Swedes.
England 2–2 Sweden, Jun 2006
Under the guidance of a Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson, England looked set to end their long-standing hoodoo when Joe Cole’s superb dipping volley and a Steven Gerrard header put the Three Lions into a 2-1 lead with five minutes of their World Cup group stage match remaining. But a series of horrendous defensive errors allowed Henrik Larsson to plunder an equaliser in the 90th minute.