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01 Sep 2008 11:53
Michael Owen was the major omission from the England squad that plays opening World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia later this month.
While Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard was called-up as cover for the injured Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick, Owen was not called up by Fabio Capello although he watched him play for Newcastle at Arsenal on Saturday.
With Capello in attendance at the Emirates Stadium, it was felt Owen would be part of the Italian’s 23-man squad, particularly as he has scored match-winners against Bolton and Coventry in the past week.
However, Capello gave an indication Owen would miss out earlier this week.
“Owen is a good player and always scores a lot of goals for England,” Capello said on Wednesday before adding: “But he has not played and at this moment, we need fit players.”
Whether Capello can afford to be without Owen, one of only four players to score 40 goals for England, is a debatable point, if not for the meeting with Andorra in Barcelona on Saturday, then certainly for the crunch clash against Croatia in Zagreb four days later.
Instead, Capello has stuck with the four strikers from the squad that earned mixed reviews for their performance in the draw against the Czech Republic at Wembley on August 20.
Once again, Peter Crouch has been left out despite scoring for Portsmouth at Everton on Saturday, although the performance of another Pompey man at Goodison Park, Jermain Defoe, suggests he will be the man asked to partner Wayne Rooney at the Olympic Stadium at Montjuic next weekend.
Capello will be hoping to avoid the kind of abuse Steve McClaren endured at the same venue 18 months ago, when Gerrard’s double and a late David Nugent effort staved off total humiliation against the part-timers after a goalless first-half.
That embarrassment provided the trigger for David Beckham’s return and the former England skipper has retained his place in Capello’s squad even though his punishing schedule—he followed the England game with a trip to Beijing for the Olympics handover—and lack of worthwhile match practice with Los Angeles Galaxy as the reasons behind an apparent decline in performance.
With Manchester City keeper Joe Hart returning to England Under-21 duty and Jonathan Woodgate injured, Robert Green and Joleon Lescott have been recalled, while Glen Johnson will provide cover for Wes Brown at right-back as Gary Neville, like Owen, is deemed not fit enough and Micah Richards picked up a knock in City’s win at Sunderland.—Sapa-AFP
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