Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Erikssion blames babes for defeat at hands of Denmark

REUTERS , MANCHESTER AND ANCONA

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson put England's 3-2 friendly defeat by Denmark on Sunday down to a lack of experience in his young team, while Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni praised his men for their robust 1-0 win against Romania

England were twice ahead through teenager Wayne Rooney and 22-year-old Joe Cole but two first-half equalizers from Martin Jorgensen were followed by Jon-Dahl Tomasson's late winner.

Cole scored off a Rooney pass but shouldered part of the blame for Denmark's first goal after losing possession, while Matthew Upson conceded a penalty for the second and Glen Johnson's second half debut coincided with the Danish winner.

Asked about Rooney, Eriksson said: "He's not only a big talent, he's a fantastic footballer already and very mature for his age. He scored a very nice goal, provided one assist -- you can't ask much more from a boy who's just turned 18.

"Joe Cole is another great talent. He's still got to learn about the game, as has Glen Johnson.

"Friendly games are good for those players, because you learn quick. Today you learned that if you make a mistake in international football against a team like Denmark you pay for it. And that's what we did.

"But it's better to pay for it in a friendly and give the chance to those young players."

With a view to next year's European championship, he added: "I'm sure when we get to Portugal we will not defend like we did today.

"You have to defend properly and give your opponents few opportunities to make counter-attacks ... Denmark are extremely good in counter-attacks. If they find some space, they kill you."

Denmark coach Morten Olsen, whose side have also qualified for Euro 2004, was reminded of England's start to their 3-0 win over the Danes in last year's World Cup second round.

"Football is about tradition and history ... and when we meet the tradition is always that England get the first goal," he said.

"We made some big mistakes but we came back well and got some good goals. As a team, we played good combination football."

Olsen, who like Eriksson tried out some new players, was clearly pleased with his experiments at Old Trafford.

"It's a friendly and the result is always nice, but I think the most important thing is that we are a little wiser."

A superbly taken second-half goal from Marco Di Vaio gave Italy a 1-0 win over Romania in an international friendly on Sunday.

The Italians fielded a weakened side but had the better chances and deserved to win a low-key game that coach Giovanni Trapattoni used to take a look at some fringe players.

The closest Romania came to scoring was an 89th-minute free kick from Adrian Mutu that keeper Christian Abbiati pushed wide.

After Italy lost a friendly 3-1 in Poland on Wednesday, Trapattoni was pleased with the way his makeshift team, without top players such as Christian Vieri and Alessandro Nesta, bounced back with a win.

"We created some good chances and played well, especially after the break. They didn't really create many opportunities -- congratulations to the whole team," Trapattoni said.

Romania, who unlike the Italians have not qualified for the finals of the European Championship next year, were also under-strength and posed few problems for Trapattoni's defense in a game played in front of just 11,700 spectators.

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