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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Oct 5, 2008

Crouch back for England but still no Owen

Michael Owen has been given the clearest indication yet he will have to come up with something special to regain his England place.

Coach Fabio Capello left Owen out of the wins over Andorra and Croatia last month, claiming the 28-year-old was not fit enough to be considered after a succession of recent injuries.

Since then, Owen has played virtually every game and started scoring again, just about the only good news to come out of Newcastle all season.

But Capello has still overlooked England's fourth highest goalscorer, even though he had a striking vacancy for the World Cup double-header with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Instead, the Italian turned to Peter Crouch, who also might have feared his international future was in doubt after being overlooked for the last two England squads.

Capello is not expected to make many changes to the side which hammered Croatia in Zagreb, although one is inevitable as Chelsea's Joe Cole has been ruled out with a foot injury.

As Steven Gerrard is back after minor groin surgery, Capello has an obvious replacement, although the England coach attracted some controversial comments from Harry Redknapp when he named the Liverpool skipper on the left-hand side of his midfield against the Czech Republic in August.

Gerrard's inclusion brings to an end Jimmy Bullard's brief elevation to international duty, while David Bentley is also excluded.

Like Owen, Bentley is partially a victim of the poor form of his club, in his case Tottenham, but as the former Blackburn man has been unable to force his way into Juande Ramos's side on a regular basis this term, he can hardly expect to trouble Capello.

Shaun Wright-Phillips' four goals have proved the wisdom of his return to Manchester City for a fraction of the £21million he joined Chelsea for three years ago.

Wright-Phillips was once viewed as David Beckham's natural successor on the England right but, barring injury, the best either man can hope for against Kazakhstan at Wembley on Saturday is a place on the bench.

The automatic spot belongs to Theo Walcott, whose hat-trick in Zagreb propelled England to the top of Group Six alongside the Ukraine.

That position should not be threatened over the next fortnight, although skipper John Terry, who has been declared fit to join up with Capello's squad despite an ongoing back problem, is cautioning against a capacity crowd expecting an easy ride.

"It is difficult to face opponents you have never played before,'' admitted Terry.

"But we have got the knowledge to speak to other players - Portugal have played them both a couple of times so we have been speaking to their players.

"We have found out little bits, but that is where the manager comes into his own.

"Whilst we are away he gives us all the details and briefs us on their strengths and weaknesses and we go over their team.

"It was a great performance against Croatia but let's not get carried away - it was one performance and we need to continue this over the course of the whole campaign.

"This could be a start to really good things with England.

"If we can pick up six points from the next two games it will be a good start for us.''

England squad for World Cup qualifying matches against Kazakhstan and Belarus on October 11 and October 15:

James (Portsmouth), Green (West Ham), Carson (West Brom); Brown (Manchester United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Terry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Lescott (Everton), Upson (West Ham), A Cole (Chelsea), Bridge (Chelsea); Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Walcott (Arsenal), Barry (Aston Villa), Jenas (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Downing (Middlesbrough), Wright-Phillips (Manchester City); Heskey (Wigan), Crouch (Portsmouth), Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth).

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