Sven Goran Eriksson's first match as England's coach was played two years ag
Sven Goran Eriksson's first match as England's coach was played two years ago today. The new era began with a friendly fixture against Spain at Villa ParkWhen Sven took over, England's fortunes were at a low ebb. We had just played three matches without scoring. Kevin Keegan's team had made the worst possible start to our qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup by losing to Germany at Wembley. Then Howard Wilkinson's team could only draw in Finland and Peter Taylor's youngsters went down to the only goal in Italy.
England needed some stability - and some better results. We got both.
More than 40,000 inside Villa Park saw England sweep to a 3-0 victory over Spain, one of Europe's top sides. Barmby, Heskey and Ehiogu grabbed the goals and there were three new caps. It was a great start - but England's winning run just went on and on.
England's first five fixtures under Sven finished 3-0, 2-1, 3-1, 4-0 and 2-0. Five wins out of five beat an England managers' record that had stood for 55 years. Importantly, we had nine World Cup qualifying points in the bag.
But the best was yet to come. We won 5-1 in Germany!
England simply blew the Germans away in the second half in Munich. Michael Owen completed a stunning hat-trick - the first by an England player against a German team since Geoff Hurst in '66. The result and the performance were Svensational.
At last England's qualification for the World Cup in the Far East looked probable rather than possible. And we got there - as group leaders - thanks to David Beckham's last-gasp free-kick against the Greeks at Old Trafford.
There were injury problems as the Finals approached. Becks was hurt, then Gary Neville, then Danny Murphy. Michael Owen wasn't 100% either. But Sven's team battled through to the quarter finals, memorably beating Argentina on the way.
Now our focus is on Euro 2004 in Portugal. There are sure to be more high points for the England team with our calm and astute Swede in charge.
by David Barber