Michael Owen picks his World Cup starting XI - big player misses out!

Former Three Lions standout has no room for Arsenal star but selects Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City players.

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker Michael Owen, now 34, featured in three England World Cup squads (1998, 2002 and 2006) and believes the current crop - who begin their campaign in Brazil on Saturday, June 14 against Italy in Manaus, is made up of an exciting core. 

"One thing this England squad has in its favour going into the World Cup is the fearlessness and innocence of youth – allied to pace and potential – and that makes them very dangerous," he blogged. "That is something that I can obviously relate to from my own World Cup experiences.

"I remember going to France in 1998 – the first of my three World Cups – and I honestly couldn’t name the first XI of the sides that I faced in that tournament. I just concentrated on my own strengths and attributes, my own self-belief, and how I would perform and what I would do. To me, it didn’t matter who I was playing against.

"Some may call that naïve. But if you could bottle that self-confidence, it would be worth a fortune as you got older, when the doubts creep in and you begin to worry more about the opposition than you should.

"But I see a lot of the unknown and X–factor that surrounded my inclusion in 1998 in this World Cup squad, and that excites me," he said, perhaps noting the inclusion of gifted wonderkids such as Liverpool's electric-paced winger Raheem Sterling, Everton golden boy Ross Barkley and Southampton full back Luke Shaw.

"[England] are a side that not many will relish facing, because this is the most ‘unknown’ England team going into a major tournament for decades. When defenders don’t know what to expect, it scares them, and the likes of Lallana, Sterling, Sturridge and Barkley, to name just four, can instil that level of uncertainty into the opposition in Brazil."

Owen also named who his starting XI for the Italy game would be if he were boss and there are notable absences as there is no room for Jack Wilshere, with Reds midfielder Jordan Henderson partnering Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park and Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge - both of whom started the international friendly against Peru at Wembley Stadium recently - both replaced by Barkley and Sterling.

Joe Hart

Glen Johnson - Gary Cahill - Phil Jagielka - Leighton Baines

Steven Gerrard - Jordan Henderson

Ross Barkley - Raheem Sterling - Wayne Rooney

Daniel Sturridge

"With that kind of set-up, I think England will be an entertaining side to watch, win, lose or draw, but glory in Brazil will surely be beyond them," said Owen, with the weather cited as a key reason for any failure to progress. "I think that they may have to settle for a scoring draw in the opening game against Italy, though that would probably be a decent enough start I suppose.

"I still think the most likely scenario for this England side is to go out in the group stages or the quarter-finals… but they certainly have the potential to scare teams."

Concluding, Owen claims the defence has a "brittle" nature but there is a "very attacking front-line", so he tells England fans that if there is one thing to expect, it will be goals at both ends.

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