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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Players back Eriksson, says Owen
Michael Owen
England striker Michael Owen expects to be fit to face Austria in Saturday's key World Cup qualifier and insists there is no disharmony in the squad.

Owen, who missed Newcastle's game with Portsmouth because of a dead leg, said: "I'm confident I'll be fit."

And he dismissed reports claiming coach Sven-Goran Eriksson had lost the confidence of the England players.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. The players are fully behind the manager," Owen added.

After England's World Cup qualifying defeat to Northern Ireland last month, Eriksson's man-management skills were called into question, particularly with regard to how much influence captain David Beckham wields in the dressing room.

Sven is the right man to lead us to Germany and achieve success there
England striker Michael Owen

But Owen believes the England squad is fully behind Eriksson.

Owen said: "This is a tight squad, with a firm belief both in ourselves and in Sven-Goran Eriksson and the coaching staff.

"Team spirit will be important over the coming days. Rest assured, it is as strong as ever.

"His record in competitive games is outstanding and people seem to have forgotten that the defeat against Northern Ireland was his first in a qualifier in over four years.

"Perhaps we have got used to a certain level of success under Sven. I have not changed my belief that he is the right man to lead us to Germany and achieve success there."

England must beat Austria on Saturday and then Poland on 12 October to guarantee a place at Germany 2006.

National coach Sven-Goran Eriksson says the squad are looking forward to burying the ghost of Northern Ireland.

"It is good to be together again," said Eriksson.

"I have been impatient for these matches to come along since the Northern Ireland game and I know the players have felt the same way.

"Everyone is raring to go, and now we are focusing totally on our training and preparations.

"The spirit in the camp is excellent and we are determined to get the two wins we need to finish top of the group."

Meanwhile, Austrian and Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz does not rate his side's chances against England after Hans Krankl was sacked as team coach.

"It will be very difficult for us to get a draw so England have a good chance to beat us," he said.

"It doesn't matter we have no chance to go through as we give it our best but it's a big point we don't have a coach.

"England are the best team in the group and I think we'll see at the end that they will finish top."


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