soccer ball 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Steve McClaren wants to stay as England coach even if his team loses to Israel in next month's Euro 2008 qualifying match.
England lost to visiting Spain 1-0 in a friendly last Wednesday, and could slip to fifth place in its qualifying group by losing to Israel on March 24.
McClaren said that shouldn't be a reason to fire him. "Qualifications are never decided in March," the England coach said in an interview aired Thursday by Sky Sports News. "They are always decided in November.
"We've played four games, we've got eight games to go and the key is qualification. End of November we want to be making sure we're going to Switzerland-Austria for that tournament."
England slid down the Group E standings in October after losing at Croatia 2-0 and being held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Macedonia. Now England is three points behind Croatia and one behind Russia - tied with Macedonia and Israel with seven points.
England plays Andorra four days after Israel and there is media speculation that a loss in Israel could prompt the Football Association to fire McClaren - and choose someone else to try and get England to the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
"It's a big game against Israel and we now have to be pragmatic," McClaren said. "We have to get the best team out that we possibly can in a way that we know we can play. We know we can win, certainly against Israel."
McClaren has been in charge of the team for seven matches since taking over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup in Germany, where the team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by losing a penalty shootout to Portugal.
McClaren said he and the players were disappointed with the performance in last week's loss to Spain at Old Trafford. But he was confident they would react positively to the criticism they received both from the media and the fans, who booed them off the field.
"In qualifiers, when the backs are against the wall, when they are under fire and many of the players have been criticized, we have to use this criticism," he said. "We have to use it to come together, have a siege mentality and say, 'We've got to prove people wrong here.'
"We're judged on what we do on the field. Let's make sure we deliver on the field."