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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
England cruise past Paraguay
Owen rises to head England in front at Anfield
England 4-0 Paraguay

Michael Owen celebrated his promotion to England captain by putting Sven-Goran Eriksson's side on the path to a crushing victory over Paraguay at Anfield.

Owen has been writing football fairytales since the start of his career - and he penned a fresh chapter by hitting the target only three minutes into his new role.

It was the signal for an impressive England show that gave Eriksson the perfect World Cup morale-booster after the blow of losing first-choice captain David Beckham through injury.

Eriksson will have been impressed by England's performance as they bounced back from defeat against Italy.

England's Gerrard takes charge

And he will have noted the performances of several of his shadow squad in the final game before he names his World Cup squad for Korea and Japan next month.

Substitute Danny Murphy added the second and the lively Darius Vassell struck his second goal in three England appearances.

Carlos Ayala completed Paraguay's misery with an own goal for the fourth - and West Ham's Joe Cole lit up Anfield with a virtuoso second-half display.

Open Quote
Maybe we stepped down a bit after qualification, but we showed we have many players who want to play in the World Cup
Close Quote
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson

Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard played his part in Owen's opener to perfection with a glorious cross, but the diminutive striker applied an uncharacteristic final flourish with a giant leap and a header that flew past Ricardo Tavarelli.

Owen was elated as he capped a dream 24 hours, and he almost doubled his tally six minutes later.

England troubled Paraguay with another Liverpool one-two as Gerrard's perfect long ball released Owen, but his snap shot flew over the top.

Newcastle's Kieron Dyer was handed an opportunity to stake a claim for England's problem left-flank slot, but he struggled to make an impact.

Kieron Dyer misses out for England

It was in sharp contrast to Gerrard, who demonstrated his versatility with a block-busting performance in Beckham's traditional position on the right of midfield.

And Dyer was disappointed to miss a simple chance after 35 minutes when he shot straight at Tavarelli with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Paraguay showed flashes of South American flair as the interval approached, but England were in complete command.

And they sealed the victory within a minute of the re-start after Eriksson made six changes at half time.

Vibrant Vassell

Robbie Fowler created the goal for another replacement, his former Liverpool team-mate Murphy, who scored via a deflection from Carlos Gamarra.

Aston Villa's Vassell gave another vibrant performance, and he deserved his goal after 54 minutes, capping good work by Cole with another deflected finish.

And England added to their catalogue of scrappy goals with 13 minutes left, when Fowler's cross flew off Ayala's back with Teddy Sheringham in close attendance.

England cruised home - and Eriksson was left with an intriguing World Cup selection dilemma.


England: Seaman, Gary Neville (Carragher 68), Keown (Murphy 45), Southgate (Sheringham 68), Bridge (Phil Neville 68), Butt (Sinclair 45), Gerrard (Hargreaves 45), Scholes (Mills 45), Dyer (Fowler 45), Owen (Joe Cole 45), Vassell (Lampard 68).
Subs Not Used: Martyn, James.

Paraguay: Tavarelli, Arce, Ayala, Gamarra (Julio Cesar Caceres 81), Caniza, Gavilan (Sarabia 57), Bonet (Morinigo 82), Struway, Paredes, Cardozo (Richart Baez 60), Santa Cruz.
Subs Not Used: Villar, Carlos Sanabria, Enciso, Edgar Baez.

Attendance: 42,713

Referee: Cosimo Bolognino (Milan)


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 ON THIS STORY
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
"It's good to see us winning again"
England's Joe Cole
"Hopefully I've put myself in with a shout"
BBC Sport's Alan Green
"Gerrard played in the Beckham role and was outstanding"
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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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