Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Struggle to Solve Confusion

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England Struggle to Solve Confusion

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Bradley

Sven-gUran Eriksson signalled the return of Newcastle United's Michael Owen against Northern Ireland but even he was admitting England must improve significantly on their uncertain display against Wales if they are to win the World Cup.

And if Eriksson admits that much in public, it is no wonder the Magpies' record pounds 16m signing was given few worries about his place in the team despite Saturday's 1-0 win in Cardiff.

Shaun Wright-Phillips made an encouraging impact early in the second half but only after he had been told to stick to the right wing, from where he crossed for Joe Cole's deflected winner.

While Cole's fitness must be assessed before Eriksson can finalise Wednesday's line-up, after the Chelsea midfielder suffered a calf strain, it will be Wright-Phillips who makes way for Owen on his return from suspension.

Eriksson said: "Michael Owen normally always brings goals in difficult games and defenders always have a lot of respect for him.

"I think he will play against Northern Ireland, although he hasn't played much football this season, so we will have to see in practice."

Eriksson could persist with his 4-5-1 formation against the Irish, although there seems little point in making the St James's Park striker his latest square peg in a round hole.

For although David Beckham gave an impressively disciplined display as the holding midfielder, showing off his range of passing skills, England were otherwise lost in a tactical fog by the end in Cardiff.

By then, Rooney had played in all three forward positions, none of which seem to suit his natural game as much as playing in behind Owen.

If England are to have a chance of winning the World Cup, this team should be built around Rooney, rather than asking him to mould himself to a set pattern.

Eriksson observed: "Of course, we can play 4-4-2 with Rooney as second striker. We can play a diamond with Rooney at the top or we can play as we did against Wales, with Rooney to the right or the left.

"It doesn't matter to him. Last season, he played to the left a lot, this season he plays to the right with Manchester United. …

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