Sven-Goran Eriksson has backed Gareth Southgate’s decision to include Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson in his Euro 2020 squad, saying the duo are “too important” to miss the tournament.
Maguire and Henderson were both named in England’s 26-man squad for the finals despite carrying injuries which have hampered their preparations for the tournament.
Maguire has not played since May 9 after suffering an ankle injury in Manchester United’s win at Aston Villa, while Henderson only made his return from a four-month absence in England’s final warm-up game against Romania on Sunday.
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There is no guarantee that either player will be fit to start England’s opening Euro 2020 fixture against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday, but Eriksson told Sky Sports News: “I think it’s right to take them because if you don’t take them they are completely out.
“They are too good to not be in the squad. Then you may gamble – maybe they can’t play the first game, or the second, but England will be in the tournament for a long time.”
Eriksson is well placed to offer his opinion having encountered similar issues during his time as England boss, when he chose to take David Beckham to the 2002 World Cup and Wayne Rooney to the 2006 edition despite both breaking metatarsals in the build-up to the tournaments.
“We had the same thing in my time, many years ago, with Beckham once, with Rooney another time,” explained Eriksson. “You’re sitting there wondering, ‘shall I take them?’
“You have to take them. They are too important for the country. If you don’t take them you will regret that, because you never know what would have happened with them.”
Captain Beckham started all five of England’s games at the 2002 World Cup – even scoring the winner in the 1-0 group-stage win over Argentina – but Eriksson admitted the uncertainty over his fitness was a distraction.
“It was a little bit in the beginning,” said the Swede. “Beckham injured, not playing, and it was a media circus.
“That was not positive but I don’t think that was important for the final result.”
‘Kane could win Euro 2020 Golden Boot’
While Eriksson went into the World Cup 19 years ago with question marks over his captain’s fitness, Southgate has no such concerns, with Harry Kane ready to lead England into the Euros on the back of another stellar season.
Kane topped the goalscoring and assist charts in the Premier League, despite Tottenham’s disappointing season, and Eriksson has backed the 27-year-old to continue his impressive form this summer.
He said: “He is extremely important. He is one of the best goalscorers in Europe. He can be goalscorer No 1 in the Euros if he’s fit all the time. Let’s hope for that.
“Who’s going to play with him? Southgate has a lot of players who can do that. First of all, will he play two strikers or will he play one striker centre and two wide? It’s a good problem to have.”
Eriksson also offered his support to England’s players after they were booed while taking a knee before both of their friendlies in Middlesbrough last week.
Southgate and his players have committed to continue making the gesture during the Euros, despite the dissent from a minority of fans, and Eriksson said: “First of all, booing the team because of that shouldn’t happen. It’s a shame.
“The kneeling in the Premier League – that’s fantastic, that’s going around the world. It’s a powerful demonstration – I love it.
“I hope England will go on with it during the Euros as well. It’s a strong message and it should be applauded, not booed.”
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