England lacking up front with tired Owen and benched Rooney

In Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, England has two of the world's best strikers.

When they're not fit, the team has problems.

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson used three different formations in Saturday's 1-0 win over Paraguay in the Group B opener and still none of his players scored.

It was Paraguay defender Carlos Gamarra who got the only goal in Frankfurt, inadvertently heading David Beckham's free kick past his own goalkeeper.

Owen started but there were none of the quick, darting runs into the box that have made him a regular since 1998. Owen only returned to action last month after breaking a foot bone on Dec. 31 and temperatures of 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) made things worse.

Rooney is also recovering from a broken foot. He's been kept in the squad but isn't likely to play until the second round, also sitting out group games against Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden.

That leaves Peter Crouch and 17-year-old untested rookie Theo Walcott as England's two fit strikers. Eriksson chose Walcott over the Premier League's top English scorer, Darren Bent, and the more experienced Jermain Defoe, who was sent home when Rooney was declared fit.

"I don't regret what I did when I picked the team," Eriksson said. "If you can find better players than Owen and Rooney, I can't.

"I changed Michael because we wanted to see some fresh legs. I think Michael did well today. He will be better every game now."

Midfielder Steven Gerrard admitted Owen wasn't at his best.

"Michael worked very hard for an hour," Gerrard said. "He is fighting for that match fitness and I'm sure it will come very soon."

Owen wasn't replaced by Walcott on Saturday, but by winger Stewart Downing, reports AP.


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Author`s name: Editorial Team