Owen named England captain

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The Independent Online

Michael Owen was today named as stand–in England captain for tomorrow night's friendly against Paraguay at Anfield.

The Liverpool striker will fill in for England coach Sven–Goran Eriksson's regular skipper David Beckham.

The Manchester United midfielder broke a bone in his foot during last week's Champions League quarter–final second leg against Deportivo La Caruna.

Eriksson said Owen was "surprised" when told the news and added: "He was the best footballer in Europe last year and I think he's a very clean and popular one inside and outside England.

"It's up to him to show that he's also a leader and I think he is.

"Michael Owen will be captain for the game tomorrow and then we'll see when David Beckham is back. Hopefully it will be for one game, because that means that Beckham is back.

"If Beckham is not back for the World Cup, which could happen, then I will think about it and see what we're going to do, if it's Michael or someone else in the squad."

Eriksson revealed there had been no further injury worries and everyone in the squad would be taking part in training this afternoon.

He added that Paraguay's Italian coach Cesare Maldini had agreed to allow five or six substitutions in the game, and he would be contacting him today to see if more would be possible.

The England coach had been hoping to play his strongest team at some stage on Wednesday but added: "Unfortunately we have some important injuries but I think if you talk about Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and Emile Heskey, they are short–term and will be back very soon.

"It's not perfect to not be able in March or April to play your best team but I look forward to the game tomorrow and even more going to Dubai and starting the real preparation with the team and the squad and we can focus on the World Cup.

"We have already been unlucky so I hope we will avoid any more injuries. The players are tired and many clubs have important games to play, they are still fighting for something so that means tough games and a lot of stress."

Owen, who was 22 in December last year, is not the youngest–ever England captain, with the legendary Bobby Moore taking that honour as a slightly younger 22–year–old.

Eriksson called Owen "fresh and talented" and added: "I like those two words and I think that should be something for England in the future.

"It's enough that you see the face of Michael Owen and you see that it's clean, a happy young boy, excellent football player, so why not try to be the captain if it's for once or for many times, I don't know.

"I think the future is important, we have a young squad, a lot of young talented football players so you have to see the game against Paraguay and for the World Cup but you have to see the future as well.

"I think the target for the FA has always been to try to win an important tournament before 2006, so you have to think about that as well."

Asked about the prospects of Blackburn striker Matt Jansen, Eriksson added: "He has a chance of course and he will play probably 45 minutes.

"Anyhow I think he's a player for the future, he's very talented, I like him as a player and I wanted to see him and of course he might be picked and might not, I don't know that today.

"I think if you want to give him a chance you should play him as a striker, he's more used to playing as a striker and not a midfielder.

"It's more important that we play good football. I'm not afraid of the result if we don't win the game and so on. We're not going to lose the spirit whatever the result tomorrow."

Regarding David Beckham's injury Eriksson added: "You have to wait until he makes the next x–ray to see how the bone is healing or not. I know the staff at Manchester United are very very good and they are doing everything to make him fit."

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