Hargreaves set to keep place in England squad

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The Independent Online

Owen Hargreaves' hopes of being included in the England squad to face Germany in next week's World Cup qualifier look likely to be realised after he was left out of the Under-21 squad yesterday.

The Canadian-born midfielder, who made his senior debut in the friendly defeat by the Netherlands earlier this month, now seems certain to be named in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for the crucial match in Munich.

The Under-21's coach, David Platt, was giving nothing away yesterday before his side's games against Germany and Albania, but confirmed that he and the Swede had spoken about the young Bayern Munich player before finalising their plans.

"Owen played in a game against Holland where he played the first 45 minutes. He'd been hyped up beyond what he should have been and I don't think anybody, particularly in that first half against Holland, played that well.

"But Sven had the opportunity to see him at close quarters, liked what he saw in training and liked what he saw in and around the camp.

Eriksson has indicated that the youngster did himself no harm after a difficult debut. "It was not the best of games for Owen Hargreaves, but it was not the best of games for the other players either," he said.

"He may be picked next time, I don't know. But if he does play in that game, then it's not because he plays for Bayern Munich."

Hargreaves was perhaps the most conspicuous absentee when Platt named his squad, although there were others in the shape of the suspended John Terry and Luke Young, as well as the injured Blackburn midfielder David Dunn. Dunn had been earmarked to resume as captain in Terry's place, although his unavailability means that Platt will now have to choose someone else.

The squad is packed with players with first-team experience. Indeed, the youngsters who clinched a 4-0 victory over the Netherlands earlier this month had more than 1,000 first-team games between them, around 600 of them in the Premiership.

The Arsenal striker Francis Jeffers and Aston Villa's Darius Vassell are among the options in attack, with the exciting 18-year-old Jermain Defoe's double against the Dutch helping him to edge out Newcastle's Shola Ameobi.

The Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick is the only Old Trafford youngster in the 24-man party, although his former club-mates Jonathan Greening and Mark Wilson are included for the Germany game in Freiburg on 31 August and the match against Albania at Middles-brough four days later.

England go into the game lying third in their European Championship qualifying group, five points behind Germany and Greece, but with a game in hand on both. With just three games remaining, they cannot afford any slip-ups if they are to progress.

ENGLAND UNDER-21 SQUAD (v Germany, Freiburg, 31 August, and v Albania, Riverside Stadium, 4 Sept): Barry (A Villa), Bramble (Ipswich), Bridge (Southampton), Bywater (West Ham), Chadwick (Man Utd), Christie (Derby), Cole (West Ham), Davis (Fulham), Defoe (West Ham), Greening (Middlesbrough), Griffin (Newcastle), Jeffers (Arsenal), Johnson (Derby), King (Tottenham), Parker (Charlton), Pennant (Arsenal), Prutton (Nottm Forest), Riggott (Derby), Taylor (Arsenal), Thelwell (Tottenham), Vassell (A Villa), Weaver (Man City), Wilson (Middlesbrough), Wright (Liverpool).

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