Owen tips emerging Walcott for 'big impact' in Germany

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Compared to the 17-year-old without a Premiership appearance to his name, Owen was a gnarled veteran when he left his indelible mark on France '98, the then 18-year-old having made 46 appearances and scored 24 goals for Liverpool to guarantee his inclusion in Glenn Hoddle's final squad. Owen said: "I'm sure Theo can have a big impact. He looks like me when I was a newcomer to the squad - shy and nervous - but even in training, the difference in him has been noticeable every day. You can see him coming out of his shell and I was like that, Wayne [Rooney] was like that, everyone's like that."

He added: "In terms of being picked for the squad, there are similarities between what happened to me in '98 and what's happening with Theo now. As for the rest of it, we don't know yet. It is hard to gauge a player after only a couple of training sessions but he looks sharp and lively. Obviously, everyone is going to welcome him into the squad and hopefully by the time the first game kicks off, he's right into it, he won't have any nerves and can do well when called upon."

Strength of character has been a hallmark of Owen's game since he stepped forward to convert a penalty on his Liverpool debut against Wimbledon in 1997 and, though older and wiser, he will again carry a weight of expectation at the World Cup if, as anticipated, he is the only established international striker fit to lead England through the group stage in Germany.

"It's one thing being able to handle it and another to enjoy it, and it doesn't affect the way I play," said Owen. "I know I can handle pressure. I can stay focused no matter what people say or write. It's not a confidence thing, it's deep within you and you know you can do something."

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