McClaren: England has to recapture winning mentality
Lampard: 'A very tough game, a tough place to go.'
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
With his job on the line, England coach Steve McClaren appealed to his players Tuesday to regain their winning mentality.
McClaren is under pressure to win in Israel on Saturday or face the strong possibility of England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
"We've got players in the squad who can change the game, who can win a game, and that's important when you look at the top teams," McClaren said when the squad gathered for training. "They have special players who can win them football matches, who step up when its needed, and I think that time has come for us."
When McClaren took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after last year's World Cup, he had the ideal start. After a 4-0 victory over 2004 European champion Greece in a friendly, England crushed Andorra 5-0 and won 1-0 at Macedonia in Euro 2008 qualifiers.
But after those three victories England was held 0-0 at home by Macedonia and then lost 2-0 at Croatia. McClaren's team is now three points behind Croatia in Group E, one behind Russia, and is level with Israel and Macedonia.
Only two teams from each group qualify, which means McClaren runs the risk of being fired unless England picks up at least four points against Israel on Saturday and Andorra the following Wednesday.
McClaren's preparations for the tough trip to Tel Aviv were hampered by FA Cup replays on Monday. Manchester United's 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough and Chelsea's 2-1 victory at Tottenham involved 14 members of his squad.
No England players were injured, but McClaren's time to work on tactics has been reduced.
In order for key players like Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard to recover, a planned full workout Tuesday at Arsenal's training ground near London was canceled.
After a light session, Lampard urged England to adopt the fighting spirit exhibited by his Chelsea teammates against Tottenham.
The Blues midfielder said it was vital the squad forget about the defeat to Croatia in October. But he is fully aware of the hostile reception facing England.
"It's a very heated atmosphere, a good atmosphere but very pro the home team," said Lampard, who was on the Chelsea UEFA Cup lineup beaten 3-1 at Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2001. "I'm sure it will be very similar. It all adds up to a very tough game, a tough place to go."
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