England could be considered as "the biggest favourite" for the 2022 World Cup, according to former Three Lions manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Gareth Southgate's team reached the semi-finals at Russia 2018, matching England's best effort at a World Cup since they triumphed on home soil in 1966.

England then made their first major tournament final appearance since 1966 when they faced Italy in a Euro 2020 showdown last year, only to lose on penalties.

Eriksson managed England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, reaching the quarter-finals of each tournament respectively, while also getting to the last eight at Euro 2004.

Beaten by Brazil in 2002, and Portugal at the following two tournaments, Eriksson was unable to guide England's 'golden generation' to success.

But the Swede believes Southgate's team have earned the right to be considered among the favourites – and, indeed, the frontrunner overall – to succeed in Qatar later this year.

Eriksson told Stats Perform: "I think they are one of the big teams who can win, and maybe they are the biggest favourite.

 

"I'm not sure how strong Brazil and Argentina are in this moment, but in Europe, Italy [are] not there. Spain, I don't think they are good enough to win it too. Germany, you never know they could do it. Belgium, always a good team."

Eriksson also believes England should easily progress from Group B, in which they have been drawn alongside Iran, the United States and one of Ukraine, Scotland or Wales.

"The group with England, Iran, United States and then it's Ukraine Scotland or Wales. I mean, it's always difficult in the World Cup, but I can't see them not winning that group," Eriksson added.

"That's impossible. They will win it easily. And then it depends always, who are you going to meet next stage, and then if you win there you go to the quarter-final.

"So, a little bit of luck there and no injuries, important players and so on and England can do it."

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson believes Manchester United will be completely convinced Jadon Sancho is poised to become one of football's biggest stars.

United and Borussia Dortmund have agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of Sancho, which is worth around £73million and expected to be completed after his involvement in Euro 2020.

Winger Sancho is reportedly poised to make his first start in the competition when England do battle against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.

Leaked team news ahead of the quarter-final tie suggests Bukayo Saka is struggling through injury and that Sancho will get a chance to start on the right wing, with Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling completing the trio who will provide support to lone striker Harry Kane.

 

Sancho has featured for just six minutes in the tournament so far, despite scoring 50 goals and providing 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for Dortmund.

He became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three straight seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since former United star David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

Indeed, only Thomas Muller (48) and Lionel Messi (43) have managed to provide more assists at that league level since the start of the 2018-19 campaign than Sancho (41).

Ex-Manchester City boss Eriksson is sure United would not have made such a big move in a transfer market that is seeing club finances impacted by the coronavirus pandemic without having certainty.

"He's 21 years old and he should have a great future," Eirksson told Stats Perform.

"The scouts and the coaches of Manchester United, they have will have looked at that 100 times. 

"They are sure that the this player will be the future, important in the future otherwise they wouldn't pay all that money. 

"So when he's coming back to England then there no doubts about it. 

"I don't see many games from German league but what I can understand is that he's a great talent and it is interesting to see him.

"There you have it with how important the Premier League is. They can take all the best players in the world and that is good for England."

 

Sterling, meanwhile, has scored in 13 matches for England and whenever he has done so the Three Lions have gone on to achieve victory.

A disappointing conclusion to his season individually for City meant many doubters were questioning his starting place for the Euros but he has responded emphatically with three goals.

Eriksson believes Sterling is primed to star further in the latter stages now that he has his confidence back.

"He is that kind of player who can create by himself, even when he is one against one with his speed and so on," added Eriksson. 

"But also, which is very important in these knockout games – so important – he has the confidence now. 

"He is sure he can create against any team – against anyone. So that means a lot when you go into this game against Ukraine. 

"And that's why I said also about Harry Kane – he was successful during [just] some minutes in the last game, but that was enough, because he scored. 

"Sterling, yes, he thinks he's the best in the world today. And maybe he is, but just that he thinks he is the best in the world is extremely important and he will create a lot of problems for Ukraine."

The rest of England's team will reportedly see Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice continue as a duo in central midfield, with a back four of Luke Shaw, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker in front of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

That would mean Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish has to settle for a place among the substitutes.

Sven-Goran Eriksson believes new Roma head coach Jose Mourinho will do well "for the first and second year" as he highlighted the Portuguese's third-season woes, while warning of the demands in the Italian capital.

Former Inter coach Mourinho will return to Serie A in 2021-22 after being appointed by Roma following his Tottenham sacking in April.

Mourinho, who guided Inter to an unprecedented treble in 2009-10, replaces Paulo Fonseca in Rome, where Roma have not won the Serie A since 2001.

Eriksson knows the Giallorossi well, having spent three years in charge – winning the 1986 Coppa Italia, and the former England boss discussed life in Rome as Mourinho prepares to lead Roma.

"It was a surprise for me… I wasn't expecting him to go to Roma," Eriksson told Stats Perform. "However, Mourinho usually does well in his first and second season. Wherever he goes. It is after that, sometimes, problems start happening. I don't know why and I'm not interested in going into it that much; however, it looks like this is the rule. First year, great; the following year, good; third year, problems.

"However, it's clear that Mourinho, as a coach, can't be questioned. He's a great coach, I know him personally, I knew him when I was coaching England. He was very easy to work with, because he was at Chelsea and had many players playing for England, the national team. And he was always available, perfect, he never complained about me taking his players, etc.

"It's a surprise and it's clear that if you win in Rome, with Lazio or with Roma, your life becomes beautiful. But if it goes bad, your life starts to become hard. Because in Rome there are three, four, five private radio stations where everyone talks about football. Four hours of Lazio, four hours of Roma, it becomes football 24 hours a day, always. However, it's beautiful. Living in Rome is the best thing in life, I think. And about Mourinho, for the first and the second year he will do well, I think."

Mourinho won only 51.2 per cent of his matches at Tottenham and left without lifting a single trophy, albeit he was sacked just days before the 2021 EFL Cup final.

His record in the English top flight before 2015-16 saw him boast a success rate of 69.4 per cent – since then it is just 48.5 per cent.

The 95 points won by Spurs during Mourinho's time at the club was the fourth highest in the Premier League. However, that was 21 fewer than former team Manchester United – Liverpool had 117 and Manchester City were out in front on 130.

Mourinho's teams are supposed to be hard to beat, yet Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him – it was the worst season he has ever had in that regard.

It has been 20 years since Roma were last crowned champions of Italy and Eriksson added: "It is not easy. If you win the Scudetto with a team that is not Juventus, Milan, Inter, it's always an incredible thing because it happens, but rarely. Very few times.

"These are the three historically great clubs that win 90-95 per cent. That is why, if the city of Rome wins a Scudetto, it's like winning a World Cup. Or even more."   

There is also a new face on the blue side of Rome, with ex-Juventus, Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri replacing Simone Inzaghi at Lazio as he and Mourinho vie for supremacy in the capital.

Sarri boasts a win percentage of over 60 in each of his three previous roles and will be hoping to continue Inzaghi's fine work at Lazio.

The Biancocelesti, who were sixth in 2020-21, finished lower than sixth only once under Inzaghi – though the sole campaign where they finished eighth, Lazio were able to console themselves with Coppa Italia success.

Eriksson was coach when Lazio last claimed the Scudetto in 2000 and the veteran Swede said: "Sarri represents a very positive, very beautiful kind of football.

"I don't know him personally, but he did well at Napoli. Then he went to Chelsea, and perhaps he didn't do great, but he's always playing great football. And then where did he go? At Juve, yes, clear. It's interesting, he's a great coach I think.

"Seeing his teams always playing a positive kind of football, good, organised I think... replacing Inzaghi wasn't easy, because he had become very popular and loved. He did many years at Lazio, and he did well."  

Gareth Southgate's refusal to bow to public pressure and pick an attacking England team has earned the respect of former manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Southgate has guided the Three Lions to the last eight at Euro 2020, reaching this stage with their first knockout tournament win over Germany since 1966.

But the manager's team selection has been the source of scrutiny.

Not since the 2018 World Cup semi-final against Croatia has Southgate named an unchanged side, a run of 34 consecutive matches seeing at least one alteration.

Despite this tinkering, the England boss has consistently named starting line-ups that have underwhelmed supporters.

Jack Grealish has started just seven of those 34 matches – and only one at the Euros – while Jadon Sancho, limited to six minutes so far in this campaign, is also not among the 12 players to have clocked 1,000 or more international minutes in this period (915).

The subsequent defensive solidity has paid off, however, for a team now versed in both a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3.

England have kept six straight clean sheets, beginning a major tournament with four in a row for the first time since winning the World Cup in 1966.

Eriksson, England manager from 2000 to 2006, knows all about the difficulty of satisfying fans while selecting an effective XI.

He famously sought to find a way to fit Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard into the same side and has been impressed by Southgate's resolve.

"Now you have to respect that because that's not easy," Eriksson told Stats Perform. "I know it's not easy.

 

"It's not easy in a club, but when you have a national team like England, everybody has an opinion. And if you don't win, you have 60 million managers or coaches telling you what you should have done.

"But the problem always in football is that, as a manager, you have to decide what to do, how to do it before the match, not after. So, I respect Southgate very much.

"You know how it is: now he is up in the sky, flying, and that's fair, that's good. But it was a little bit of a defensive team he put it out to start with – and if that had gone wrong, he would have been very, very much criticised.

"He won, he had [it] right and the decision he took was right. That's important."

Ukraine are next up and, given they are considered more straightforward opponents than Germany, calls will grow again to bring in Grealish, Sancho or Phil Foden.

"I don't think Southgate needs any advice from anyone – and he will not listen to it," Eriksson said.

But he added: "I think it's going to be very important for England that they can open up, and if you ask me, yeah, I would put in one more attacking guy, maybe, who can do things one against one.

"I think that will be important for the Ukraine game.

"But anyhow, whatever formation Southgate uses, England will win that game. I can't see any other result than that they go through."

Sven-Goran Eriksson heaped praise on "perfectionist" Roberto Mancini as the Italy head coach continues to oversee the stunning transformation of the Azzurri at Euro 2020.

Italy will face Belgium in the quarter-finals on Friday after setting a new national record by extending their unbeaten streak to 31 games thanks to a last-16 triumph over Austria.

A proud football country but a national team on their knees after failing to qualify for Russia 2018, their first World Cup absence since 1958, Mancini is the mastermind behind a drastic recovery following his appointment more than three years ago.

Banishing the nightmares of Gian Piero Ventura's dismal tenure, Italy have only conceded more than once in one of their past 18 matches at major tournaments, dating back to the beginning of Euro 2012.

They have conceded just 13 goals across these matches (eight clean sheets) with the only game where they did concede more than once coming in the 2012 European Championship final against Spain (a 4-0 defeat).

As a whole country unites behind 1968 European champions Italy, former Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio, England and Manchester City boss Eriksson hailed Mancini.

"Italy are playing very, very well," Eriksson, who coached Mancini at Sampdoria and Lazio in Serie A, told Stats Perform. "In the first two, or the first three games, they were the team that played the best football of all. Why? I don't know. However, they have many good players without any doubt, playing in top clubs, important ones.

"And then they have Mancini, Roberto. Clearly, he's been a manager for a long time now, he's been in Italy, he's been in England, in Russia I think, in Turkey as well. However, I knew, 25 years ago, that Mancini would have become a great manager. Because I've had him as a player for eight-nine years, and back then he already was like a manager.

 

"He was everything at Sampdoria: warehouse worker, cook, everything. And manager as well. Because he lives for football and it's always been like that for him. He is very curious – 'Why are we doing this during training?', 'Why don't we do this, or that?'. He would always come to me with questions about our training. And he was always talking about football.

"He's doing a great job, I understand it and I am very, very happy for him because he is also, in his job and I think in his life, a perfectionist. There are no half measures with Mancini. He is all or nothing. When he goes to training, he is all. When he changes club, like when he came with me from Sampdoria to Lazio, he was the same at Lazio. He was giving everything, and he wanted to win at any cost. He is a winning mind, a very winning one."

Eriksson added: "He is also a very generous man. For example, he would invite all the players and the whole coaching staff to the restaurant, once a week or every two weeks.

"Fantastic, fish-based, from Genova. And he would always pay, everything. He's a great man. I think very highly of him, and I am happy that he is doing very well."

Italy have reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship for a fourth consecutive tournament. Each of those previous three appearances at this stage have been decided by a penalty shoot-out, with the Italians eliminated by Spain in 2008 and Germany in 2016 while progressing past England in 2012.

Indeed, that accounts for three of a total of five European Championship penalty shoot-outs Italy have participated in – more than any other nation prior to the 2020 edition.

Italy have won all four of their matches at Euro 2020. They have never won five consecutive games at European Championship finals, while only twice previously have they won five or more in a row at any major tournament (World Cup and Euros), winning seven in a row at the World Cup from 1934 to 1938 and five in succession at the World Cup in 1990.

"I don't see a weak spot. Mancini, as perfectionist as he is, always wants to play good football. And maybe this is a weak spot," Eriksson said. "However, it's not actually. I like seeing the football played by Italy, because they attack, they play the ball pushing forward, they don't play like tic-tac, tic-tac. They get the ball, they steal the ball and then go. They lose the ball, they fall back, they defend, aggressive. This is a kind of football that is very nice to see.

"It's clear that Barcelona, Spain, play good football. However, I don't like it that much, because there are a thousand passes before they decide to attack for real. I know that Mancini is not like that. Mancini wants to attack. I hope that this style gets to the end."

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