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 April 18, 2002 | 1215 IST

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Eriksson welcomes England's fire

Sven-Goran Eriksson paid tribute to his England team for rediscovering their taste for battle in their 4-0 demolition of Paraguay in a World Cup warm-up game at Anfield on Wednesday.

Strikes from skipper-for-the-night Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and Darius Vassell, plus an own goal by Celso Ayala, gave England an ideal send-off in their last friendly before flying out to the finals.

The commanding performance also banished the ghosts of 1-1 draws against Sweden and the Netherlands, plus a 2-1 defeat to Italy last month in England's lacklustre run since qualifying for the Korea/Japan tournament starting on May 31.

"I'm happy," said the Swede. "Good result, good performance and, what made me most happy tonight, the right attitude.

"After the qualification game against Greece, we went down a little in the games against Sweden, Netherlands and Italy. We didn't play badly, but I'm sure we could have done better.

"Today, we saw again the will to fight, the will to win and the right level of concentration. When the boys are out there playing football like that -- it's nice to see."

Aware of their tepid displays of late, Eriksson had been urging his men to show some fire on the pitch, and he was not disappointed with the reaction -- despite the wholesale substitutions.

"I told them that on Monday and they responded very well I must say. Excellent...I should like to see us play football like this, with the right attitude, every time we come together.

"Today we saw 21 players who wanted to show they wanted a ticket to Japan."


Eriksson was also delighted with Owen's 45 minutes, wearing the armband at Anfield in place of the injured David Beckham.

"I'm very pleased about him," the England manager said. "I think he will sleep very well tonight -- as a captain, on his home ground, scoring a nice goal. What more can you wish from life as a footballer?"

Paraguay's Italian coach Cesare Maldini had no complaints about the result, saying: "We played against a team of a superior category. They're among the favourites for the World Cup with good reason.

"We were a bit unlucky in that two of the goals came from deflections but, clearly, I have to say their victory was fully deserved. Compliments to England.

"I know Eriksson very well," he said of the Swede, who coached for 13 years at club level in Serie A. "You can see his hand at work -- he has faith in young players and he gives them confidence."

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