Eriksson backs 'new generation' of England stars to shine at World Cup

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The former Three Lions boss believes that Gareth Southgate's youthful squad has every chance of a strong finish in Russia this summer

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has backed Gareth Southgate's 'new generation' of stars to have a strong showing at the World Cup.

The Three Lions open their campaign against Tunisia on Monday, having qualified for the finals in Russia by topping qualification Group F. 

England completed their preparations for the tournament with a 2-1 friendly victory over Nigeria at Wembley and a 2-0 win over Costa Rica at Elland Road.

And Eriksson believes in the pool of talent representing the country in Russia this summer.

"I think that they have a good team," Eriksson told Goal . "They have a lot of young and talented players, a new generation.

"If they're not too tired and if there are no injuries, they can have a good World Cup. I hope so, and I think so."

Eriksson took charge of the England national team at three major tournaments across his five-year spell as manager, being eliminated at the quarter-final stage in both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and also the 2004 European Championship.

His appointment as national team manager came after successful spells in Italy with Roma and Lazio and was followed by stints in charge of Manchester City, Leicester City and the Mexico national team.

Being in charge of England, though, remains the 70-year-old's most treasured time in his illustrious coaching career.

"England was the biggest coaching job that I had," Eriksson continued. "You know, in England, the football is connected to all the things in a incredible way. I'm very proud to have been there.

"We had some success. But, today, there is a new team, a new staff. I'm still supporter of England, and hopefully they will do a good World Cup."

The 2006 World Cup saw England enter the finals as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Germany, with the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard at the peak of their powers.

And while Eriksson believes that his side should have progressed further than the last eight, he stopped short of labelling the squad as the best the country has ever seen.

"We had a good team," Eriksson said. "There is no doubt about that. But is it the strongest team? I don't know.

"In the UK, the people said that we should've won the World Cup, but two years later, when I was gone, they didn't qualify for the Euros. So, I don't know how the people look at that. But, yes, in 2006 we had a good team.

"I thought we would go further, and not only me - all of the players and the whole group thought we would do better than the quarter-finals. We didn't do it. We lost in the penalty shootout against Portugal.

Carragher, David Beckham, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Lampard, Crouch_England

Ronaldinho's long-range effort eliminated England in the quarter-finals of the 2002 tournament in Japan and Korea, despite Owen giving Eriksson's side the lead in the first half.

Rivaldo had levelled the game for the Selecao before Ronaldinho embarrassed David Seaman in the England goal with a strike from 40 yards out, dumping the Three Lions out of the competition.

Eriksson and his England team then met Portugal at the same stage in the 2006 finals but were again stopped from reaching the last four, this time on penalties following a 0-0 draw in Gelsenkirchen.

The game is remembered for a red card given to Wayne Rooney for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and the resulting confrontation between the then-Manchester United forward and his club-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite his frustrations on the world stage and the Portugal defeat eventually leading to his dismissal, Eriksson is proud to have been England's first foreign coach and sees no reason to dwell on his side's finishes in major tournaments.

"If you could play all these games once again you maybe could change something," Eriksson said. "But you can't go on in life thinking like that.

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"I think that we could have done better, but we were not bad. We reached twice quarter-finals. We lost against Brazil, who won after the world champion title.

"My worst moment was in 2006, in Germany, without any doubt! The defeat in the knockout phase of the World Cup 2006 against Portugal.

"That was unexpected and that was also my last game with the English national team. It was not a happy day."

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