Eriksson stands by lacklustre Owen

May 31, 2006

Sven-Goran Eriksson insists Michael Owen will play to a different tune when England begin their World Cup campaign next week.

The Newcastle striker, who has struggled with injuries this year, has looked somewhat tentative in England's warm-up games against Belarus last week and Hungary last night, but Eriksson claims that will all change when the tournament starts.

The England head coach said: 'I'm not worried about Michael Owen. I've known him for more than five years.

'It's very important for Michael to have the game he had last week, this one against Hungary and the game he will play on Saturday.

'When it comes to the World Cup the music is different for Michael Owen. It has always been like that.

'He doesn't go into hard tackles at the moment, and I agree with him about that, but he will when it's the World Cup.

'The real games are coming, then so these games are very important for him.'

Eriksson was pleased overall with England's 3-1 win over Hungary at Old Trafford, which underlined David Beckham's value to the side.

Beckham created goals for Steven Gerrard and John Terry and caused the visitors numerous problems with his pinpoint crosses.

Eriksson said: 'What can I say about David Beckham - I have never ever understood the critics about him. The assists he has you cannot find anywhere in all the world.

'He is not a dribbler like many other players but he doesn't need to dribble, he just strokes the ball in and there it comes.'

The England skipper added: 'I felt good, that's my job to set goals up and I was lucky to have a few chances. We finished them off well.

'We needed to get this game under our belts because after 20 minutes it was more difficult than we thought.

'They stayed back off us and gave us more time on the ball at the back, but in the last minutes of the first half we started to break them down well.

'We knew if we pushed them hard in the second half we would break them down.

'I think throughout the squad we have the belief, we've had it for a while.

'There has been a lot of hype surrounding certain players - we have a lot of players in the squad who can play well and perform.'

Eriksson professed himself satisfied with his experiment of playing Jamie Carragher in the holding role for the first half, though the Liverpool player had to switch to right-back in the second after Gary Neville suffered a minor hamstring pull.

The formation allowed Gerrard freedom to devote his energies to attack and he responded with a dynamic display.

'He played excellently, but wherever you put him he plays excellently,' said Eriksson. 'He's the complete player and can do everything.'

Substitute Peter Crouch scored England's third after Hungary skipper Pal Dardai had given the visitors hope with a brilliant strike, and Theo Walcott also came off the bench to become England's youngest-ever player at 17 years 75 days.

Eriksson added: 'He [Walcott] gets confidence every time he trains with us and plays with us.

'I think in the World Cup we will see him, not from the beginning maybe, but maybe coming off the bench.

'And with the pace he showed once again, I think he will be very useful.'

Terry's goal was his first for England and his 'baby-cradling' celebrations - in the style made famous by Bebeto in the 1994 World Cup - were to mark the birth of his twins a fortnight ago.

He said: 'It has been at the back of my mind to celebrate like that since the twins were born. I'm delighted to have been able to do it - in fact I'm over the moon.'