Eriksson relieved after World Cup draw

Sven-Goran Eriksson breathed a huge sigh of relief after the Soccer World Cup draw handed England a relatively easy first-round group and spared his squad the prospect of facing either The Netherlands or traditional sporting adversaries Australia.

“It is not an easy group, but it could have been much worse,” England’s Swedish coach said after his squad were drawn in a group with Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Eriksson’s native country, Sweden.

“We asked to avoid Holland and Australia and we did that,” Eriksson told the BBC. “Of course we have to play Sweden, whom we have not beaten for a very long time—that seems to be our destiny. But that is life; sooner or later we have to beat them.

“At least on paper we are the favourites with Sweden, but you never know in the World Cup.”

The draw means England, presuming they finish in the top two in their group, are likely to face either Germany or Poland in the second round.

Eriksson is confident England could win the group and avoid a last-16 clash with Germany.

“I think Germany will win their group, I think they are in an easy group for the host nation,” he said.
“For sure, it is better to play Poland than Germany in the second round.”

The draw means it is possible England could face Brazil in the final, but Eriksson did not want to speculate on that sort of outcome.

“I would take that at once, to play Brazil in the final, but the way is long and it is not right to talk about the final. Now we have to prepare for our group matches.

“We have difficult games, but I am happy with the group. It could have been worse, much worse.”

Defending champion Brazil will play their first match of the World Cup finals against 1998 semifinalist Croatia, while Argentina have to face The Netherlands in a tough first-round group.

Five-time champion Brazil also face Australia and Japan in group F, while Argentina have games against Serbia and Montenegro and Côte d’Ivoire. Argentina failed to get past the first round in 2002 and this draw means they could struggle again.

The opening match will be hosts Germany against Costa Rica in Munich. Three-time winners Germany also play Poland and Ecuador.—Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP

World Cup draw

Group A: Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador

Group B: England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden

Group C: Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire, Serbia and Montenegro, The Netherlands

Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal

Group E: Italy, Ghana, United States, Czech Republic

Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Australia, Japan

Group G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo

Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

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