Sven-G^ran Eriksson shouldered the responsibility for England being left with a 'knife to their throat' in terms of qualifying for the World Cup finals after their collapse against Northern Ireland.

His own position is little better. While he urged the nation not to panic, the fans have started to turn on him and he admitted the players had lost their "spirit" after just 35 minutes in Belfast.

Eriksson has vowed not to resign, he is not about to be sacked with a potential

pay- off of more than £5 million, and victories against Austria and Poland would still ensure a World Cup place.

He admitted: "Something has happened which shouldn't have happened and it's up to us to turn it right. But if you want to know who is responsible, then it's always me. I have to turn it right.

"It's about working, talking and not panicking. If we panic and switch 11 players, then it will never work. I should like to see all the big players we have fit 100 per cent."

Having set his sights on matching Brazil before

kick-off, he was still even talking in terms of winning the World Cup after a 1-0 defeat.

When asked if he truly believed he could still turn it around and win the tournament, he stated "yes", even if it did not sound too convincing.

"If we want to play at the World Cup, we all have the knives here," he admitted, indicating his throat. "But I'm sure we will respond in a very positive way.

"I could not even dream of not qualifying for the World

Cup. We have to win the next two games. Will I quit if we don't? We're going to win them and that's it."

More realistically, this defeat may be the beginning of the end for Eriksson - the moment the emperor was revealed without his clothes.

Not only were his tactics exposed in Belfast, so too was the form of his leading players, with the Swede having depended for too long on reputation rather than form.

He nevertheless insisted he would be keeping faith in the likes of Steven Gerrard,

Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand for next month's final two qualifiers.

"I took Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard off as I thought they were tired in the second half. But they will be better in October, both of them," declared Eriksson, as if saying it aloud would make it true.

Wayne Rooney is, however, unavailable against Austria, having earned a one-game ban as his indiscipline returned to haunt a coach who must still find the

striker's best position amid England's tactical confusion.

The answer in Eriksson's mind against Austria could be former Aston Villa striker Peter Crouch, who was ruled out of these two games through injury.

It is hard to imagine Brazil, whom Eriksson had set his sights on matching before kick-off in Belfast, turning to a player of the lanky Liverpool player's style to solve any attacking problems.

But when asked if he still remained convinced his players were good enough, the England coach insisted: "I've no doubts about that."

Whether they are still playing for him remains to be

seen. Eriksson insists they are, but their performances indicate they may not be.

Criticising his squad is, however, a last-ditch and highly dangerous manoeuvre for any coach. His first priority should be ditching the 4-3-3 system that has caused such confusion and returning to 4-4-2.

Gerrard must be ordered to stay in the holding role or moved out to the left flank, with Owen Hargreaves or Scott Parker brought in to play that specialist role.

In defence, he must hope Gary Neville, John Terry and Sol Campbell recover from injury in time for next month's games.