Sven-Goran Eriksson has defended his players following England’s laboured 1-0 win over Paraguay.
The coach was criticised for his use of substitutes, with the withdrawal of Michael Owen, being regarded as key to England’s poor second half performance.
Eriksson said: “I changed it because we wanted some fresh legs but Michael did well and I’m sure he will get better.
“I don’t regret what I did picking the team and it was vital to get this win.”
“I thought we were finding it difficult to keep the ball so I tried to have a player who could link the ball up a little and Joe Cole did very well in that role.”
But the Swede denied that the substitution caused his side’s performance to fade.
“I think we lost rhythm, I think we started the second half poorly but I think it got better at the end,” he said.
“We found it difficult to keep the ball in the second half. But we will get better in the next match and it was important to open with three points.
“Four years ago we got a draw in the first match and last time (Euro 2004) lost against France. To win the World Cup we will have to play better football but we will.
“We will have to play 90 minutes like the first 25 but I’m sure we will play better and better every game. It is a good start.”
England captain David Beckham blamed England’s poor second half on the heat.
“You don’t realise how hot it was out there,” he said.
“We were good at times but we gave away the ball too much. But it was hot and we got what we wanted. That was a good start and we have the three points.
“The performance could be better but we will work on that. We set out to get the three points and we did that.
“But we were exhausted. We can put it down to that because we are usually strong and our fitness levels are high.
“This was a three o’clock kick-off and it was 28 or 29 degrees out there,” he said.