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Oct 10, 2012

Owen makes penalty admission

Michael Owen has admitted he went down easily to win penalties against Argentina in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

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Owen won spot-kicks in the second-round match against Argentina at France '98 - when England went out on penalties - and in the 1-0 group-stage victory over the same opponents in Sapporo four years later. He maintains that he had legitimate cause to go down on both occasions but could have remained on his feet.

While Owen's manager at Stoke, Tony Pulis, has recently spoken out against simulation, the striker believes that the vast majority of players go down under minimal contact.

"It is the topic of the week," he said at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge. "Last year we were probably talking about diving. Next week it will be drugs or racism. We are just round on the cycle. I don't think it's really different from last year.

"It is in our game - it is happening so fast these days that it is virtually impossible to see whether there was contact. I'd say that 75% of people could stay on their feet for a penalty, and if they get touched and go down it is almost: 'Hey, got touched, so it's okay to go down'.

"I have been guilty as well. I played at the 1998 World Cup against Argentina and I was running flat out, got a nudge, went down. Could I have stayed up? Yes, probably. Then four years later you [referee Pierluigi Collina] gave me a penalty again against Argentina. Again, I could have stayed on my feet, the defender's caught me and I did have a decent gash down my shin from it, but I could have stayed up."

Owen insists he is against diving in the strictest sense of the word but argues that there is merit in trying to encourage defenders to give away penalties.

"It's a very difficult subject to talk about, especially to people who have not played the game," he said. "There is a major skill in trying to outwit an opponent.

"For the actual player one against one, you're trying to draw people, to commit them, to get into the box because you know as soon as you have got them in the box they are petrified of sticking a leg out or doing anything. It is a skill to get them one on one or isolated.

"No-one is for blatantly diving, of course they are not, but there is a part of a striker that actually tries to entice the leg to come out to try to win a penalty. It is a skill and it has been done for years and years and I don't think it will ever leave the game.

"I'm totally against diving, I have never been for it or sought to get a penalty without being touched, but you try to push the boundaries to win a game for your team without cheating."

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