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By ESPN Staff

Owen boost, but England fear worst over Rooney

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - England striker Wayne Rooney could miss England's first two World Cup matches with a foot fracture, a sports injury specialist said on Sunday.

However, fears that Rooney's striker partner Michael Owen might also be a serious doubt for the tournament starting in 40 days' time on June 9 were allayed.

'I'd doubt very much if Rooney makes the first game or even the second game,' expert Roger Robertson told BBC Radio Five Live.

'I would say seven weeks. From five weeks onwards just build up the exercise and see how it goes.'

Rooney broke a bone in his right foot late in Manchester United's 3-0 defeat at Chelsea and the club said he would be out for six weeks.

England face Paraguay on June 10, Trinidad & Tobago on June 15 and Sweden on June 20 in Group B at the World Cup in Germany.

Owen, 26, underwent tests on Sunday morning on the foot injury he suffered four months ago and they showed there was no damage after an uncomfortable comeback for Newcastle United on Saturday.

Media commentators said England defender John Terry would be out for 10 days after the Chelsea captain also suffered a foot injury in Saturday's title-decider at Stamford Bridge where his club were crowned champions for the second year in a row.

The general consensus among pundits speaking to the British media on Sunday was that without Rooney, England's chances of World Cup victory were greatly reduced.

'It's depressingly sad. Without Rooney, I think we have gone from possible World Cup winners to outsiders,' former England manager Bobby Robson told BBC radio.

'We can't replace Rooney, I don't think there's another player like him in the country... there's hardly another player like him in Europe,' added Robson, who steered England to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals in Italy.

'The people who win World Cups are individuals, your top individuals.'

Robson believes England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has a tough decision to make whether to include Rooney when he names his 23-man squad on May 15, FIFA's deadline.

'We have enough quality, I would hope, to beat the teams that we have to face in the group matches. What you need then is your top players for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, that's when Rooney becomes crucial.'

The anguish Rooney must be experiencing was revealed in a remark he made in an interview he gave The Observer last week which was published on Sunday.

'To see any player get injured and miss the World Cup...that would be horrible,' Rooney said.

Last month, Eriksson was quoted as saying he would take Rooney even if he had fitness doubts.

'If Rooney has a small problem, would you still take him?' the Swede was asked.

'What alternative do you have?... If you have a centre-half who might not be ready you can take another one but can you find another Rooney?'

Rooney, who has a fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his right foot, suffered a crack in the fifth metatarsal in England's Euro 2004 quarter-final against Portugal when England were eliminated.

Owen broke the fifth metatarsal on New Year's Eve and required surgery. He said after coming on as a substitute against Birmingham City that he was not entirely comfortable.

England were missing injured midfielders Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy and defender Gary Neville at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where they reached the quarter-finals.

Neville and Murphy had both suffered metatarsal injuries while captain David Beckham travelled to Asia while recovering from a similar injury and admitted after England's elimination that he had not been fully fit.