Owen for Africa?

What do you think of Steve Bartram's blog... is he right to back Michael for England's World Cup squad? Or is there a better option for Fabio Capello than a player who's made only 10 starts for his club this season.

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24/02/2010 11:38, Report by Steve Bartram
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MO worth a punt

Ever keen to make reference to his love of the gee-gees, Michael Owen this week deemed himself a ‘long shot’ to be aboard the England plane bound for this summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

It's an opinion shared far and wide, but am I missing something? Granted, he’s not played regularly for United this season, but England don’t need someone who can cope with 90 minutes under the blistering African sun. That mantle will be carried by Wayne Rooney.

Wazza’s so integral to England's hopes of getting off the ground, he may as well fly the plane over. Fabio Capello, like any top manager, will play to his strengths, and that means building his team around Rooney. Lightweight upfront, brimming in midfield, he may push Steven Gerrard up into the hole behind Rooney and then rotate his midfield four accordingly.

Should Capello make that call, suddenly every other striker in his squad becomes a bridesmaid. On merit, Jermain Defoe has to be in the party for his form this season. Then the token big man has to be in for those occasions when only a good old fashioned ‘lump it and see' will do. Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey can get one of the extra legroom seats at the front of the plane.

That’s three spots taken: The main man, the form man and the big man. Anything else is just for emergencies; a player to throw into the fray when a goal is paramount.

Bobby Zamora? Darren Bent? Carlton Cole? Gabriel Agbonlahor? All have done well this season as the chief goal-getter for their respective teams, but they’re all used to being the main man. They can make a difference at Premier League level across 90 minutes, but for England, they might see half an hour spread across three high-pressure group games.

Michael Owen has been playing under those conditions virtually all season – fleeting appearances, high pressure stakes, seldom any second chances. On Tuesday he took under three minutes to grab a clinical goal against West Ham, and Manchester City can certainly attest that his sharp mind plus fresh legs equals bad news for tiring defences.

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