World Cup qualifier Group 6

England coach Sven Goran Eriksson has brushed off speculation that a poor performance in the two upcoming world cup qualifiers would jeopardise his chances of remaining as boss.

“The main target is to qualify for the World Cup in 2006 in one way or another. England must be in Germany,” said Eriksson

“Why not get six points in the two qualifiers? If we get less than four points, life is more difficult but no, I don’t feel that my job will be in jeopardy if we don’t get four points.” he added.

Despite his calm approach to the game, Eriksson is fully aware of the importance of getting off to a positive start.

“It’s very important because you only have 10 games and if you fail in too many, you don’t qualify for the World Cup and that would be a disaster for us. Life is much easier for all of us if we win qualification games.

“England are always the favourites, whether that is fair or not I don’t know, but that’s a fact. It’s never easy, it’s always very difficult.” added the Swede.

Eriksson’s first task is to overcome an out of sorts Austrian side, who may struggle to emulate their predecessors, who defeated England 4-3 the last time the two sides met in Vienna back in 1979.

Current coach Hans Krankl was part of that squad, and is keeping his cards close to his chest with regards to his line-up for Saturday’s group six game.

” I have (the formation) already in my head but I will publish it as usual not before match day,” he said.

Krankl can at least take comfort from the fact that Wayne Rooney who set the international scene alight at Euro 2004, is still nursing a broken foot sustained in the quarter final against Portugal.

England’s main selection concerns are in midfield, with Nicky Butt definitely out, and Steven Gerrard looking increasingly likely to miss out with a groin problem.

Eriksson is set to wait on Gerrard’s progress until a few hours before kick off, but will not risk the Liverpool midfielder if he is unfit.

If Gerrard does miss out, Manchester City’s Shaun Wright Phillips, who scored on his debut in the recent friendly with Ukraine, could be given a right midfield role, with Captain David Beckham moving to the centre.

Eriksson also has to contend with the international retirement of Paul Scholes, with Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and Kieron Dyer all vying for a place on the left-side of midfield.

For the Austrians, Markus Kiesenebner, Gernot Sick or Joachim Standfest could replace the suspended Markus Schopp and the injured Roland Kirchler on the right side of midfield.

Third choice goalkeeper Andreas Schranz has also pulled out of the squad due to an ankle injury.