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   2 June, 2002 | 1040 IST



France get the blues

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Beckham, Owen hold the key

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England will turn to Michael Owen and David Beckham to conjure up a winning start to the World Cup on Sunday when they take on Sweden in group F.

England's two favourites among the crowds in South Korea and Japan provide the key to their country's chances of ending a 34-year wait for a victory over the well-organised Swedes.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, himself a Swede, drew heavily on Owen's pace and clinical finishing during qualifying and the 22-year-old will be expected to deliver now that he is back on the game's biggest stage.

With 16 goals in 36 appearances for England, Owen has a proven strike record against the best defences in international football and scored a superb goal in 1998 against Argentina.

However, Europe's Footballer of the Year cannot expect much space in the final third against a Sweden side that has built a reputation on defending deep and getting back quickly in numbers.

Beckham, who says he is fully recovered from a broken bone, has been dubbed by Eriksson as the best taker of free kicks and corners in the world, and his energy in midfield has also been precious to England throughout qualifying.

Sweden are sweating on two injury doubts -- midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, who has been carrying a hip problem, and defender and captain Patrik Andersson, who picked up a knock in training on Saturday.

Ljungberg is coming off an FA Cup and premier league double with Arsenal, having scored a remarkable 16 goals, and would be a major loss for the Swedes.

With Argentina favourites to top the group, both sides know that three points on Sunday should see them into the second round, while defeat would leave them casting an eye on flights home.

Probable teams:

England (4-4-2): 1-David Seaman; 2-Danny Mills, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 6-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-David Beckham, 21-Nicky Butt, 8-Paul Scholes, 11-Emile Heskey; 10-Michael Owen, 20-Darius Vassell

Sweden (4-4-2): 1-Magnus Hedman; 2-Olof Mellberg, 4-Johan Mjallby, 3-Patrik Andersson, 16-Teddy Lucic; 7-Niclas Alexandersson, 6-Tobias Linderoth, 8-Anders Svensson, 9-Fredrik Ljungberg; 10-Marcus Allback, 11-Henrik Larsson

Match referee: Carlos Simon (Brazil)

Jorge Oliveira (Brazil)
Yuri Dupanov (Belarus)

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