Capello says Owen needs more playing time

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The Independent Online

England manager Fabio Capello has reiterated to Michael Owen that the striker needs to gain more playing time with Manchester United if he wants to make the World Cup squad.

Capello is in the process of narrowing down his options before selecting a 23-man squad for the finals in South Africa.

Owen has scored more goals for England than any other active player, but has struggled for first-team action since joining United last summer. He admitted that he considers himself a "long shot" for national team selection in South Africa and Capello told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport: "One of the players (the fans) would like to see me select is Owen.

"He is one of the best English goalscorers of all-time but if he doesn't play, I cannot pick him."

One player certain to feature barring injury is Owen's United team-mate Wayne Rooney.

The 24-year-old has been in top form this season and his performances have earned Capello's praise.

"Wayne is an extraordinary player, he is talented and willing to learn," Capello said.

"(Sir Alex) Ferguson has taught him so much while I've only had to polish him.

"I have told him that he must make sure he plays inside the box and he must continue to score goals.

"The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United has given Rooney more responsibility and he is now integral to their plans."

As for England's ambitions this summer, Capello does not rule out anything.

"A top four finish? It would be a good thing," Capello said.

"But I don't like to settle for anything even though in the Premier League, I only have 38% of the players available for selection with respect to 67% of Italy and 63% of Spain.

"Of the rivals, the ones that have impressed me most have been Brazil and Spain."

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