Owen refutes goals forecast

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The Independent Online

Michael Owen yesterday responded to Carlos Alberto's attack on him by insisting he had never predicted a five-goal haul against Azerbaijan.

Michael Owen yesterday responded to Carlos Alberto's attack on him by insisting he had never predicted a five-goal haul against Azerbaijan.

The Brazilian turned on Owen in a bizarre 10-minute post-match rant after his Azerbaijan side had lost 2-0 to England at St James' Park.

Owen had carefully avoided making a pre-match prediction that he would match Malcolm Macdonald's mark of five goals in an England game, saying: "I wasn't aware that five was the record and that's a fantastic feat. I've scored four goals a couple of times before, but I don't remember ever scoring five in a game."

But Alberto, misguided by pre-match reports into believing Owen had predicted a five-goal salvo, asked: "Who is this midget anyway, what has he ever won?" He went on to say that Owen "should wash his tongue" and that he should "clean David Beckham's boots".

Owen said: "If he [Carlos Alberto] checks my pre-match quotes he will realise that I never said anything about scoring five goals - I would never be so disrespectful. He would, though, be perfectly within his rights to criticise my performance - I've certainly had better games in an England shirt. Fortunately, I am a mentally strong person and believe I will learn from the experience and continue to improve as a player."

The England coach Sven Goran Eriksson said: "From what I know about Michael Owen, he would never say things like that. He might have said he hoped he would score a lot of goals, but he would never have said that he would score five goals. I'm sorry if there was any misunderstanding."

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