The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Our best yet to come: Owen

Birmingham: Michael Owen will captain England for this weekend’s friendly against Portugal in place of injured David Beckham, the Football Association (FA) said on its website on Thursday.

Owen had been widely expected to take over the captaincy for Saturday’s match at Villa Park once Beckham withdrew from Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad after suffering a calf strain in Manchester United’s win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Owen first became skipper — and the country’s second youngest ever captain after the late Bobby Moore — in April when the Liverpool striker scored in England’s 4-0 victory over Paraguay in a pre-World Cup friendly at Anfield.

With Beckham then recovering from a broken bone in his foot, Owen was also captain for England’s friendlies against South Korea and Cameroon just before the start of the World Cup.

Beckham returned in time for England’s group opener against Sweden and held on to the captain’s armband throughout their run to the quarter-finals.

Owen said on Thursday that England cannot afford to dwell on their World Cup disappointment and must look to the future.

Owen revealed that the squad and coach Sven-Goran Eriksson would be holding a meeting to discuss the World Cup, where they lost to Brazil in the quarter finals, later on Thursday.

“We’re going to have that meeting tonight,” said Owen, who will lead the side in Saturday’s friendly against Portugal at Villa Park in the absence of injured David Beckham.

“We’re going to have a general chat about what happened. The main part of the meeting will be on the future,” Owen said. “The manager’s not one to dwell on the past. We may spend a few minutes talking about the World Cup but apart from that it will be used as an exercise to try to improve our performances.”

Owen said he was delighted to have the honour again. “It’s just as good,” he said. “You never get tired of captaining your country.”

England are using Saturday’s game as a warm-up for their 2004 European championship qualifying campaign, which starts next month against Slovakia in group seven. “Obviously it was not nice going out of the World Cup but we have got to look forward now,” Owen added. “The best of this team is still to come.”

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