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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Owen excited about Rooney return
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Baden-Baden

Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney
Rooney will start alongside Owen in place of Peter Crouch

Michael Owen believes the return of Wayne Rooney as his strike partner can fire up England's World Cup bid.

The pair will play against Sweden on Tuesday for the first time since the win against Argentina in November.

Owen has struggled so far, but he said: "You would have thought there won't be so many long balls with Wayne back. We might keep it on the deck a bit more."

England trained in Cologne on Monday ahead of Tuesday's game - in cooler weather than on previous days.

Ahead of the session, Owen said: "If we're playing well, I will look as good as ever. I'm as sharp as ever."

Owen and Rooney will play up front, with Peter Crouch - who is only one booking away from a suspension - dropping down to the bench.

Owen added: "I've got a lot of self-belief. You've not seen it because we're not firing on all cylinders at the moment.

"I'm the person who takes the brunt of it because I'm the furthest forward.

WORLD CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's chief football writer Phil McNulty

"There's no point me changing my game to try and be something different. Things can turn around quickly. It's not like I'm on a long drought or anything.

"Only a few games ago, I hardly had a touch against Argentina and scored two. That shows you what can happen."

Rooney played 33 minutes as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago and showed no ill-effects after his broken metatarsal injury.

"The medical people say he can play more than 45 minutes, so if that is the case it is better he starts the game," said England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

England's Swedish coach is almost certain to draft Owen Hargreaves into a holding midfield role on Tuesday, with Steven Gerrard also rested.

Gerrard would be suspended for the last 16 clash with either Ecuador or Germany if he was booked, and Eriksson is keen to ensure he is available for the knockout rounds.

Frank Lampard is also on a yellow card, but the Chelsea midfielder is expected to play against Sweden.

England defender John Terry, meanwhile, sang the praises of strikers Rooney and Owen.

"Marking Rooney is a nightmare and he is looking sharp and ready to go," he said.

"Rooney would tell you he had 160 minutes in him as long as he playing, his touch is good and he looks sharp."

England go into Tuesday's match in Cologne knowing that their place in the knock-out stages is secured following their group wins against Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago.

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They will win Group B, provided they avoid defeat against Lars Lagerback's side - although they will be aware they have not beaten Sweden in 11 attempts since 1968.

Terry said he was in a positive mood, despite England performing below their best so far.

"Two out of two and six points - it can't be much better and let's be encouraged that things can only get better from a performance point of view," he commented.

Switzerland's Massimo Busacca has been nominated to referee England's game against Sweden.

Busacca was the referee for England's 1-0 defeat to Northern Ireland last September in a World Cup qualifier.



SEE ALSO
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Pick your England team
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England team guide
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25 May 06 |  Schedule
Have your say on the World Cup
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