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Late Cavani strike saves PSG

Paris Saint-Germain about an hour ago
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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
Nov 14, 2006

McClaren hails new England record-breaker Richards

Micah Richards will become the youngest defender to play for England tomorrow with coach Steve McClaren insisting he has no hesitation in playing the 18-year-old.

With Gary Neville injured, Richards has been handed the right-back berth for Wednesday's friendly with Holland in Amsterdam even though the Manchester City man has only made 23 Premiership starts for his club.

It is the type of leap of faith previous England bosses have taken on Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney and while Richards' emergence has not been chronicled in the same manner, McClaren has no doubts about his ability to adapt.

'It is not how old you are, it is how good you are,' he said. 'Micah has come into the squad and it is as if he had been involved all the time.

'He is a very confident boy, as you need to be at this level, and I have no hesitation in picking him. He has been given a chance and I hope he takes it.'

Having also handed Everton striker Andrew Johnson only his second start, as well as recalling Joe Cole and Steven Gerrard, McClaren has attempted to shake up the side which performed so dismally in Croatia last month.

But it is the inclusion of Richards which really gives this England line-up a fresher feel.

Although the most notable moments of his fledgling career so far involve a four-letter outburst on live TV after last season's FA Cup tie at Aston Villa and then a petulant shirt throwing incident when he was substituted at Reading, Richards has started fulfilling the promise McClaren first saw when he was still manager at Middlesbrough.

'I have known about Micah for a couple of years,' he added. 'He impressed me playing both at reserve and youth team level for Manchester City. I thought he was a player for the future and now that has come to the fore.

'He is a new breed of player; strong, quick, athletic, mobile. He has a great leap and will be effective in both boxes, as he has already proved in the Premiership.'

Although the loss of Aaron Lennon has cost McClaren some of the width he had intended to use at the Amsterdam ArenA, he has abandoned the much-derided 3-5-2 formation he experimented with in Zagreb.

Instead, Gerrard has been named on the right side of midfield, as he has been in the previous four games he has been available for in McClaren's brief reign.

Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick will again play in central midfield with Cole, now over the knee injury which has prevented him from appearing for his country since the World Cup, on the left.

'From the outset I said we wanted to play with width and pace and pick people who could beat opponents,' McClaren explained.

'It is something we lacked in the last squad but we have got this time.

'We also have players in form, which excites me. What we have to do is transmit that over so they play well for England.'

While it could be argued Johnson, who has not scored for seven games since announcing his arrival at Everton with six goals in the first month of the campaign, is not quite on top form, his pace and strength offer England an alternative in attack alongside Wayne Rooney.

Johnson is certainly more like Louis Saha, who has struck up such an effective partnership with Rooney at Manchester United, than Peter Crouch, who finds himself back on the bench as England look to record their first win in the Dutch capital since 1969.

'Since Andy has moved to Everton, he has grown in confidence,' said McClaren.

'It was always difficult when he was playing in the Championship and joining up with the England squad.

'But he had a flying start at Everton and when he came into the England squad he looked a different player.

'He is playing with confidence, exuberance and enthusiasm like he always does and I am looking forward to seeing him play tomorrow.'