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   20 May, 2002 | 1510 IST


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Owen dismisses injury woes

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England striker Michael Owen brushed aside his team's injury worries on Monday, saying Sven-Goran Eriksson's men were confident of having a good World Cup.

England lost midfielder Steven Gerrard and defender Gary Neville before the finals, while Kieron Dyer is doubtful after a knee injury and skipper David Beckham is recovering from a broken bone in his foot.

But Owen, who will captain England for a friendly against South Korea on Tuesday, told a news conference: "A lot's being made of our injury situation and if the World Cup was starting tomorrow then maybe it would be justified.

"But myself and the rest of the camp are all optimistic that everyone's going to be fit for the first game (against Sweden on June 2).

"And that's the most important thing. It's more important being fit for the first game rather than a warm-up.

"Even though we have got a few players on the injury list at the moment our injury situation isn't as bad as it might be.

"We all hope that David Beckham is going to be fit for the first game and if it means me not being captain then I'd be happy.

"It would mean we would have our proper captain and someone that is used to doing it, someone that's a great player that we need in the England team."


He added: "But in our country we've got a lot of good players that can fill in and, as much as you miss very good players, you've got to keep going. We can't sit back and worry about what's happened, we've got to push forward.

"We've got enough good players in our team to do well in the competition...We are confident of having a good World Cup."

Two others expected to miss Tuesday's game are midfielder Nicky Butt, who is running again after a knee injury, and striker Robbie Fowler (hip), but defenders Martin Keown (foot) and Sol Campbell (shin) should have recovered from knocks.

Eriksson, whose side have another friendly against Cameroon on May 26, may well field his strongest available team against the tournament's joint hosts at Sogwipo.

Owen said the fear of fresh injuries was outweighed by the need for England to play together.

"No one wants to get injured but it's such an important time for us now. We've got to play these games and get a feel for one another, to play with each other.

"There's not too many times we get together, with the long hard season of the premier league...These 10 days or so leading up to the World Cup are crucial.

"Obviously, you take a small risk every time you step on a pitch," Owen said. "But it's a risk that everyone's got to take."

After Sweden, England meet Argentina on June 7 before playing Nigeria in their final group game on June 12.

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