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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 04:38 GMT 05:38 UK
England stay positive

Exclusive by Phil McNulty
Our man with England

David Beckham consoles Steven Gerrard after England's 2-1 defeat by France
Michael Owen has backed England to bounce back from the disappointment of their Euro 2004 defeat against France.

Owen told BBC Sport: "I'd prefer to lose the first game of a tournament like this rather than any other, although it's a bitter blow for us.

"It was a bit of a mugging and hard to take, but we move on to our next two games knowing we did ourselves proud apart from two minutes in injury time.

"Everyone gave everything and Ledley King and Wayne Rooney were fantastic."

Despite David Beckham missing a penalty, England looked to be heading for the perfect start in Group B as they led 1-0 in Lisbon with the seconds ticking away.

But Zinedine Zidane fired in a free-kick and then scored from the penalty spot after keeper David James brought down Thierry Henry as he chased Steven Gerrard's poor backpass.

"It's hard to explain quite how that happened and is such a disappointment after we played so well and looked so solid for so long," said Owen.

"When you get into injury-time and you are winning, the worst you think you can do is draw, so to lose is a real sickener.

"But Zidane's free-kick was fantastic and the back-pass that led to the penalty was just one of those things for Steven Gerrard that can happen to anyone.

"He'll get over that and we will get over losing this game. Stevie is a very strong character and he will be determined to put it right in our next game."

Owen revealed coach Sven-Goran Eriksson ordered England's players to quickly get over their disappointment as they prepare to return to training on Monday.

He said: "We do feel disappointed, but we must pick our heads up.

"We've got to get it right for Monday, put a smile on our faces and get things back on track for Switzerland.

"It's not a great result but a lot of players can be very proud. France are the best team in the world and what happened out there just cemented that in my mind.

"They showed they are great team who can never be written off, but we take the positives and go forward.

"There were too many good things that went on out there for us to regard the night as a total write-off.

"We have got to get our heads up, play football like this and you will see England in the quarter-finals.

"We were very unlucky but I am hopeful that we will meet France [in the final] on 4 July and I don't think we would have bad luck twice."

Owen suffered the added disappointment of a rare substitution, when he was replaced by Darius Vassell after 65 minutes.

"I don't enjoy being taken off, but the heat was unbelievable out there and the manager used all of his three substitutes," he said.

"It was too hot for everyone to play 90 minutes."





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