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End of the world for Owen

As expected, Michael Owen ruled out of the World Cup following the results of his scan earlier today and reports suggest he may actually miss the rest of the year through the injury.

It is a huge blow both for the player and the team, as despite not being 100% fit and struggling for form, he has proven big stage pedigree and would have been key for the hopes of England progressing far in the tournament.

Despite Erikkson appearing upbeat and saying he is happy with the number of strikers in the squad, the decision to not take Jermaine Defoe in the squad could backfire in the upcoming game(s). Even with four fit strikers, it still looked light (as most countries have gone with five) and this is without factoring in Rooney and Owen heading into the tournament with an injury cloud hanging over them.

Although Rooney is now fit to play, he still looks short of match fitness and the impact he has had in games so far has been in sporadic bursts rather than over a sustained period. Bearing in mind so mouch now rests on his shoulders it is hoped that the near seventy minutes last night have benefitted him greatly.

Peter Crouch, who a couple of weeks before the tournament was still very much 'Plan B', now has a vital role to play and unless Erikkson reverts to 4-5-1, will be spearheading the attack with Rooney. They linked up well at times against Sweden and I anticipate a lot of work on the training ground will be centred around their partnership.

The wildcard in all of this is Theo Walcott. Taken as a gamble by Erikkson with the ability to come on and change a game, he is one more injury away from being thrust into the firing line. The most natural replacement in the squad for Owen, he has yet to feature in the tournament and there have been opportunities missed in the Paraguay and Sweden game for him to see action.

It would now be a major gamble to throw Walcott in, and if there are any problems with Crouch or Rooney it will likely be Gerrard who moves into a more advanced position. Looking at the squad it would have looked far more balanced for Defoe to have been taken instead of Jermaine Jenas. Many were surprised at the inclusion of Owen Hargreaves but he has featured in all games so far whilst Jenas is cover for Lampard and Gerrard - who are clearly not going to be dropped. Throw in Carrick, Downing and Lennon and the midfield is well stocked - something that can't be said for the attacking options.