Former soldier Lawrence to lead Soca Warriors into battle against England

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The Independent Football

Neighbours in the environs of North Wales and Chester they may be, but with Dennis Lawrence a jobbing defender in League One, and Michael Owen a Premiership galactico, there is not a lot of dropping in for a cup of sugar between players who will be in direct opposition when Trinidad & Tobago take on England in Nuremberg on Thursday.

Lawrence, the Wrexham centre-back, gave a resolute performance to help keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson off the scoresheet in T&T's 0-0 draw with Sweden on Saturday. Now he is gearing up to face Owen and Peter Crouch, who at 6ft 7in is one of the few strikers in the tournament who can look the 30-year-old Trinidadian in the eye.

Asked about his proximity to Owen, who still has his Chester home despite playing for Newcastle United, Lawrence laughed and said: "It's not exactly round the corner. It's the same area, but his house is one of these [holding his arms a yard apart] and mine is one of these [narrowing them to a foot]. So it's not quite the same. I haven't seen him around."

Lawrence has never played against Owen or Crouch, but his eye-catching stature and steady performance in Dortmund has seen his profile soar. "I don't know about being a 'star'," he said. "I've only done part of the job, and it's not just me, it's the whole squad. That's what got us a positive result."

The Soca Warriors squad draws heavily on the English and Scottish leagues, guaranteeing an extra edge to the meeting with Sven Goran Eriksson's side.

"England is a special game because I ply my trade there," Lawrence said. "We've got to have belief. If we go into it thinking we've got no chance, there's no point in going out on the pitch."

Acknowledging the major part played by Shaka Hislop and Dwight Yorke in marking T&T's World Cup debut with a point, the former soldier added: "In matches you look to the experience of those two, and Russell [Latapy], to provide that extra touch of quality. We can only hope they can keep doing that and carry the youngsters through."

Leo Beenhakker's team had already attracted "neutral" support - if Scots and Germans can be described as such - and Lawrence noted some Sweden fans were won over to the Caribbean cause. "I hope we can continue to win friends," he said.

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