Sun, Nov 18, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Owen limps off injured as England beat Austria


England's Michael Owen, left, is tackled by Austria's Martin Stranzl during their friendly match in Vienna on Friday.


Michael Owen will miss England's potentially decisive final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday after limping out of a 1-0 friendly win over Austria on Friday night.

A Peter Crouch header just before halftime ensured a subdued display by Steve McClaren's side ended in a victory marred by the gravity of the thigh injury which forced Owen off after half an hour.

"Michael won't be fit for Wednesday, he has pulled his thigh," McClaren said.

The early prognosis was that the Newcastle United striker could be out for as much as a month.

As a result, England will go into the Croatia game -- which may be meaningless in any case -- without four first-choice players.

Wayne Rooney and captain John Terry are both injured while Rio Ferdinand is suspended.

"That is football but we seem to be plagued by injuries at the moment," McClaren said. "We will be going into what could be the biggest game for England for a long while without two center halves and two center forwards we would pick. But I still believe that, if we have to beat Croatia, we have enough courage to win it and we will do it."

Austria coach Josef Hickersberger admitted he would be keeping his fingers crossed that results go England's way.

"I hope for England and for [joint hosts] Austria and Switzerland that England will be playing a real match against Croatia next Wednesday, not just trying to get some reputation back," he said. "We would really like to welcome England to Austria next year."

A friendly in the stadium that will host the final of Euro 2008 was never likely to offer balm for the wounds of a squad whose own hopes of reaching next year's tournament could have been extinguished by yesterday evening.

If Russia were to win in Israel and Croatia were to manage to get a point in Macedonia, the Croatians visit to Wembley will be rendered as irrelevant as this encounter was always likely to be.

On a freezing night in the Austrian capital, there were individual landmarks in the form of a clean sheet on his international debut for goalkeeper Scott Carson, a 98th (and possibly final) cap for David Beckham and Frank Lampard's restoration to the starting line-up.

Collectively, though, there was little McClaren's men could achieve beyond adding to the general astonishment over the position they find themselves in and perhaps bolstering their beleaguered manager's chances of survival a little.

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