England can win World Cup, says Mourinho

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The Independent Football

After 10 days away from most of his squad, Mourinho was in a charitable mood about the chances of an England national team that included four of his players in the starting line-up that faced Poland on Wednesday - a match that finished with John Terry as captain. His team face Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge today with an unblemished record of eight wins out of eight to protect and a manager who has been refreshed and invigorated by his early season break.

It is rare for Mourinho to offer much insight into his private life but in an unusually colourful response the Chelsea manager said that the experience of his family's favourite ride in Paris made him "feel like Bruce Willis" - who saved the world in the film Armageddon. Mourinho certainly required some cheering up when Damien Duff returned to London on Thursday with a knee injury that will rule him out for up to five weeks and guarantees a start for one from Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole - the two wingers Eriksson selected to play against Poland.

He has long been reluctant to analyse England's prospects next summer, and suggestions that he might want to manage the national team in the future have infuriated him, but the Chelsea element in Eriksson's team have drawn him into the debate. Mourinho identified the England team as one of those in the tournament which will face significant change in its personnel once the summer is over. "I think England can [win the World Cup]," Mourinho said. "I think it will be a World Cup where it will be very difficult to spot a team much better than all the others. I don't see a team as good as France when they won the World Cup. I see teams on the same level. I think the difference is not about the quality of the team, it's about the future after the World Cup.

"You look at Germany and the Netherlands - when this World Cup is finished they have a team for the next World Cup. Then look at Portugal, France, England, almost every team especially in Europe. They have the same team they had in Euro 2004; they change one of the names but the players are very similar. But when the World Cup is finished they will say, 'We need a new team for the next World Cup'."

The Chelsea manager emerged from a self-imposed media ban that has lasted about four weeks to insist that William Gallas would not be sold by the club in January and that the French international has assured him that he did not wish to leave. Without Duff today, and Hernan Crespo only returning yesterday afternoon from his international duty with Argentina in Uruguay, Mourinho will pick Carlton Cole on the bench for the first time this season.

Frank Lampard, Terry, Wright-Phillips and Cole will all be central characters in Eriksson's production next summer but Mourinho warned his players that any suggestion they were saving themselves for next summer's World Cup would be heavily punished by their manager.

"The players know me well. We have worked together enough for them to know me well," he said. "And when I have just a little, very little, feeling they are not thinking about Chelsea they know they have a problem because they are not playing for Chelsea. They know me. They know me so I don't have this kind of fear. I'd love to have 11 [players in the national team]. You always want to get the best from your players. I want all my players to be successful and play for their countries and win competitions."

Those bookmakers who have already paid out on bets on Chelsea to win the Premiership "do not understand football", Mourinho said, although he conceded that they might know something about self-promotion. However, should Chelsea avoid defeat today - and extend their unbeaten run in the Premiership to 38 games, the equivalent to a full season - there will be few willing to bet against them.

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