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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Owen hits back at Azerbaijan jibe

England striker Michael Owen
England striker Michael Owen has hit back after criticism from Azerbaijan coach Carlos Alberto.

The Brazilian thought Owen had vowed to score five goals against the minnows before Wednesday's World Cup qualifier.

But Owen said: "If he checks my pre-match quotes he will realise that I never said anything about scoring five goals - I'd never be so disrespectful.

"But he'd be perfectly within his rights to criticise my performance - I've certainly had better games."

In a statement Owen added: "Fortunately I am a mentally strong person and believe I will learn from the experience and continue to improve as a player and person because of it."

I wasn't aware that five was the record and that's a fantastic feat - I've scored four goals a couple of times before, but I don't remember ever scoring five in a game
Owen on 28 March

Sven-Goran Eriksson earlier leapt to the defence of Owen, saying: "From what I know about Michael Owen, he would never say things like that. It's not his style.

"I'm sorry if there was any misunderstanding."

Carlos Alberto, who led Brazil to World Cup success in 1970, mistakenly believed striker Owen had said he was going to beat Malcolm Macdonald's record of five goals in an England game.

He launched a bizarre 10-minute attack on the Real Madrid forward in the news conference after his side's 2-0 defeat in Newcastle.

"This man - what's his name? - the number 10, the small one who doesn't play in the Real Madrid first team - said that if Poland beat Azerbaijan 8-0, England should score at least eight and he'd score five of them," said the Brazilian.

"But he must respect everyone. Who is Michael Owen anyway? What has he ever won in football? He plays for Real Madrid but he is always on the bench.

"It is not right for him to say that he can score five goals against Azerbaijan. Where are those five goals tonight?

"I have a history in football but what is the history of this guy, this midget? He ought to clean his tongue and wash the boots of David Beckham as they are so wet tonight.

"He didn't score one. Sven-Goran Eriksson is a good man, he should teach him to respect everyone. Who is he anyway? Who is he?

"I would say this to his face if he was here. I hope he is back on the bench when Real Madrid play this weekend."

But Carlos Alberto was full of praise for Eriksson's England side.

"England deserved to win," he added. "They have a wonderful team and have improved since the World Cup. They played the kind of football that I love to see."

Interview: Azerbaijan coach Carlos Alberto

Interview: England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson

Interview: England skipper David Beckham

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