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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 04:44 GMT 05:44 UK

Eriksson hails 'special' Cole

Sven-Goran Eriksson has revealed the "special" talents of Joe Cole and Martin Keown will provide the silk and steel in England's World Cup campaign.

West Ham's brilliant youngster Cole was the wild card in Eriksson's 23-man squad for Korea and Japan when it was named on Thursday.

And Arsenal veteran Keown is the surprise inclusion alongside a selection of central defenders chosen by Eriksson.

Eriksson, explaining his decision at London's Cafe Royal, said: "Martin Keown is a very special player. He is a very good defender, a marker.

"He can take out an opponent if you need that during a game or during a tournament. I don't mean by kicking him, but by marking him out of a game.

"You need players like that in your squad."

Eriksson admits he is still waiting for final fitness reports on captain David Beckham's broken foot and on his Manchester United team-mate Nicky Butt, who has a knee injury.

But he had no hesitation in including Cole, and has put Liverpool's Danny Murphy on stand-by to cover injury setbacks to his midfield players.

Eriksson said: "I think Joe Cole has something special. He is not experienced, but he can change things on the pitch. We have to take these young players with big talents - Owen Hargreaves is the same.

"How old was Michael Owen when he went to his first World Cup? 18."

Eriksson claimed England could be "dark horses" for the World Cup - but admitted he was sad at breaking the bad news to players he had left out of his squad.

He revealed Liverpool's Jamie Carragher had been ruled out by a knee injury.

Eriksson, who confirmed he was still finalising his squad just hours before the official announcement, added: "I feel very sorry for a lot of players. They have worked hard and helped us qualify, but unfortunately I can only pick 23.

"When I left messages, or spoke to the players I was leaving out, they were the phone calls you wish you never had to make in your life."

Eriksson is confident England will acquit themselves well in the World Cup, saying: "I don't think I can say I am confident we can win the World Cup - those are very big words.

" We are not the favourites, but we could be dark horses "
Sven-Goran Eriksson

"But I am confident we will have a good World Cup. We are not the favourites, but we could be dark horses. I don't want to go there and play three games then come back - that would be very sad."

Eriksson is pleased with the balance of his squad, and said: "We have a very young squad and we have some older players, like David Seaman and Teddy Sheringham, who should be the fathers of the team.

"Some of the players have a complete lack of experience on the stage where we are going, but I think they deserve to be there, and when you look at the squad I tried to take the best players I could find in this country.

"If I did right or wrong I have no idea, but when you talk about young players like Beckham and (Paul) Scholes, they have a lot of experience of international football."

England's World Cup squad:

Seaman (Arsenal), Martyn (Leeds), James (West Ham).

Ferdinand (Leeds), Campbell (Arsenal), Southgate (Middlesbrough), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), Bridge (Southampton), Mills (Leeds), Brown (Man Utd), Keown (Arsenal).

Beckham (Man Utd), Scholes (Man Utd), Gerrard (Liverpool), Dyer (Newcastle), Butt (Man Utd), Hargreaves (B Munich), Joe Cole (West Ham).

Owen (Liverpool), Heskey (Liverpool), Vassell (Aston Villa), Fowler (Leeds), Sheringham (Tottenham).

On stand-by: Murphy (Liverpool)

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