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Sunday, 23 June, 2002, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Owen: I wasn't fit for Brazil
Michael Owen refelcts on what might have been as he arrives home
A reflective Michael Owen lands at Heathrow
England striker Michael Owen has admitted he was not fully fit to face Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Owen's admission not only sheds new light on his withdrawal from the quarter-final but also raises questions of the extent England gambled on their star striker.

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson raised eyebrows when he withdrew Owen ten minutes from the end as England chased an equalising goal against Brazil's ten men.

Open Quote
Maybe I should have come off earlier against Denmark, but you don't think like that when you're in the middle of the World Cup finals
Close Quote
Michael Owen

But Owen admitted the legacy of his troublesome groin injury had finally caught up with him.

He told the News of the World: "My big regret is that I wasn't able to go into this massive game in peak condition."

"I didn't train all week, except for the day before the Brazil game. I had treatment every day, for 11 hours a day.

"When it first happened, it didn't feel like a bad injury, but then the next day it just went tight.

"I could run, but I couldn't go flat-out."

Owen also admitted he may have let his heart rule his head, as England took a calculated gamble on his fitness.

Michael Owen celebrates his goal against Brazil
Owen celebrates his goal against Brazil

The Liverpoool striker said: "I felt fine in the earlier games and maybe I should have come off earlier against Denmark.

"But you don't think like that when you're in the middle of the World Cup finals.

"It's not every day you are able to face Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, and it was a game I didn't want to miss.

Open Quote
My first resolution for the new season is to get rid of all the problems with injuries which have affected me in the past
Close Quote
Michael Owen

"If you take away the explosive side of my game and I can't do things at full pace then it does affect me.

"I'm not making excuses or feeling sorry for myself.

"But I know that when I am 100% fit I can play well."

Owen also said he would have been happy to trade the goals he scored in England's journey to the quarter-finals in exchange for further progress.

Michael Owen is consoled as his World Cup comes to an end
Owen is consoled by the England bench as his World Cup ends

He said: "I can look back now and remember the goals I have scored to get us here - especially the hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Germany, and the two I scored in the finals against Denmark and Brazil.

"But I would swap them all for us to have been able to go all the way to the final and lift the trophy.

"Perhaps in 10 years time, I'll be able to look back with fond memories at the goals but at the moment they mean nothing because we are going home."

Owen will continue to work with Dutch-based physio Richard Smith to prepare himself for a domestic season with Liverpool.

He said: "My first resolution for the new season is to get rid of all the problems with injuries which have affected me in the past.

"I already take good care of my body but I reckon I'll have to do even more if I'm going to clear up the injuries once and for all."


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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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