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 April 27, 2002 | 1440 IST

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Eriksson picks Argentina as favourites

England manager Sven Goran Eriksson has picked Argentina as his World Cup favourites and given a strong hint that he would pick midfielder Joe Cole by saying England's squad could be the youngest at the 32-team finals.

Eriksson also said on Saturday he would pick Leeds United's Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate after the World Cup finals. The players have been ignored since being involved in court cases over the assault of an Asian student.

Cole, 20, was outstanding in a 4-0 defeat of Paraguay this month while defender Wes Brown (22) and midfielder Owen Hargreaves (21) are also fighting for World Cup places alongside Michael Owen (22) and central defender Rio Ferdinand (23).

"We will have one of the youngest teams, maybe even the youngest," Eriksson was quoted in the Daily Mirror as telling a business lunch this week.

"If the opening game was tomorrow I would definitely know my starting 11, although of course it depends on fitness and injuries."

England meet Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria in the first round at the finals in Japan and South Korea, starting on May 31.

"I would say Argentina would be my favourites along with France and maybe Italy but as dark horses why not us?

"I know it's going to be very difficult but it costs nothing to dream.

Midfielder Bowyer was cleared of assault charges in December but Woodgate was found guilty of affray and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. The defender suffered a broken jaw this month and will miss the rest of the season.

Their international careers were put on hold during the legal proceedings and Eriksson said they would not be picked for the World Cup as it might affect England's image abroad.

"After the World Cup I will pick them both. Lee Bowyer had a difficult season for many reasons and I'm the first to understand he is a good player.

"But if he is not going to picked for the World Cup, then he will be in the future."

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