Would you choose Owen or Bent in a World Cup final?

November 11, 2009

Imagine the scenario … there are 10 minutes to go in the World Cup final and England are 1-0 down.

Fabio Capello can choose between Michael Owen and Darren Bent to come off the bench and rescue England’s World Cup dream. Who will he turn to?

A man with 40 England goals to his name and bags of international experience who has played for three of Europe’s biggest clubs? Or a striker with four caps, no international goals and a reputation for blowing hot and cold?

It seems Capello, the man credited with dragging England out of the doldrums and restoring their battered reputation, favours the latter.

The England manager effectively banged another nail in Owen’s World Cup coffin by selecting Sunderland’s Bent ahead of him for his squad to face Brazil on Nov. 14th.

And while the Italian says the England door remains open for Owen, his habit of leaving the country’s fourth highest international goalscorer kicking his heels means the above scenario in which he is forced to choose between Owen and another striker is unlikely to occur.

The Italian, who recently described the former Real Madrid and Liverpool poacher as his ‘tormentor’, has frequently re-iterated that players who are unfit and not firing for their clubs will drop out of contention.

While the principle is no doubt grounded in common sense, the question of whether or not Owen merits being an exception to his iron rule just won’t go away.

Owen would be many fans’ choice to come off the bench and grab a goal should England find themselves in a spot of bother at a crucial point in next June’s tournament.

But Capello is no gambler and remains reluctant to wager one of his 23 squad places on a player who may only be able to make a decisive contribution in short, sharp bursts.

“The players with us in South Africa will be all fit,” Capello said recently. “It’s impossible to wait for one player. Little things are okay, but bigger problems and they will not be there.

“If you have to recover someone it’s no good. When we go it will not be the warm season, when it’s easier to recover. It will be cold in South Africa.”

The England manager worries the wintery conditions could lead to an injury crisis that would deprive him of his first-choice frontline.

And few could blame him for refusing to trust Owen’s hamstrings to hold up should the forward be required to fulfil more than a cameo role.

But let’s imagine another scenario … Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are all ruled out through injury or suspension during the tournament. Could England realistically win the World Cup with Bent leading the line?

This question is perhaps at the heart of Capello’s decision to give the Sunderland frontman a chance to impress before the squad for South Africa is finalised.

PHOTO: Manchester United’s Michael Owen (L) scores against CSKA Moscow’s during their Champions League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, November 3, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Should he fail against Brazil, the case for taking a gamble on Owen, Capello’s bête-noir, will only be stronger.


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I’d rather choose Michael Owen. He’s a man of experience and is a proven goal scorer. He has also done wonders as a forward for Man United. I have nothing against Bent, but he has been too erratic.

Posted by luis | Report as abusive

Bent has to be favorite to be honest, whilst there’s no doubting Owen’s experience and he’s an asset in the big game.But you cant ignore a player in form, playing well, playing with a huge smile on his face and enjoying the game again.Owen and his injuries make him a gamble and yeah i’d have him on the bench and ahead of heskey anyday, however Bent’s injury record is excellent in comparison and the possibility of Bent and Rooney’s pace,drive and ability could make England a fierce force in the world cup.

Posted by Davo | Report as abusive

Definitely Michael Owen…he always scores in big games…you cannot blame him for injuries…even torres is struggling…Owen is an intelligent player he times his run…makes space thts what is vital in big games…tht wht experience can bring….he has got class…thats what count in big games

Posted by hari sankar | Report as abusive

those are the reasons england always faill thankfully capello will notpick any of them

Posted by bertie | Report as abusive

Why 10 minutes left? Picture this scenario, you have to choose a team to start the third game of the group stages. Do you go for a player long past his best, with no pace or strength to speak of due a history of crippling injuries? A man who’se confidence is all but shot due to said injuries and who brings nothing to a team other tan scoring goals but has not managed to get into single figures in the season just ended? Or do you go for a strong speedy striker who through his workrate and strength brings far more to his team than simply goals. That said, he has still managed to finish the seson as the top-scorig Englishman in the Premier League. In fact, over the past 4 Premiership seasons, Wayne Rooney has been the only Englishman to outscore him.Bent finished as the Premiership’s leading English striker with Charlton and missed out. He went to Spurs and was pillared, despite him having a better average than any of his teammates. He has gone to Sunderland and again is currently the Premiership’s leading English scorer. Nobody is claiming Bent is in the same league as the world’s top strikers but if I were Steve Bruce I wouldn’t swap him for Heskey, Carlton Cole, Abgonlahor or Peter Crouch.

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

got to agree with steve here the facts dont lie, couldnt help but notice this little gem that one of you has put in your postsHe has also done wonders as a forward for Man United.are you joking?

Posted by maid | Report as abusive

As a lot of managers love to point out, South Africa is still some time away. Bents current purple patch could disappear by the time the WC starts and Owen could have scored a dozen or two goals and helped ManU to the title. I think Capello will wait to see how things pan out before making his final choice, if Owen scores a lot and stays out of injury, he’ll beat Bent for that spot.

Posted by UTV | Report as abusive

what? owen back in the england team? as im sure all england fans would agree. michael owen has been nothing short of an utter discrace to football since the day he was born. what has he ever done for england or anyone? nothing, that’s what. he is the reason alone why england have failed for the last 10 years. the team should be built around rooney, who will end up or already is the greatest footballer of all time. capello has realised this and killed him off from the england side.i also find it a discrace that owen is even allowed to talk to rooney, let alone play in the same club. fabio’s work is still not done, he must MAKE alex ferguson get rid of owen from the united team. that will double rooney’s ability alone. and hopefully this will push owen and his family onto the streets to starve to death, just like they all deserve.

Posted by properenglandfan01 | Report as abusive

Capello have personal feeling against Owen. Comparing Owen and Bent is like to which will you bet if elephant and buffalo are fighting in the ground.I don’t think freckled faced Capello will bring Owen to S Africa as the name Owen is another freckle in Capello mind.

Posted by salai laimi | Report as abusive

properengland fan have u heard ur self. utter rubish. owen is one of the very few english players who has won the european player of the year. he was awesome in his hay days at liverpool. now at utd all he needs is games. then we will win the league again. lolz. if he can get his confidence back then he will be dangerous. real madrid took it out of him.. bent is good and u should choose who is on form at the moment. but owen does make those clever runs. misses a lot though. but atleast he s in the chances.

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“Imagine the scenario … there are 10 minutes to go in the World Cup final and England…”not gonna happen anyway

Posted by julien | Report as abusive

Talking of owen not making the squad what about Heskey 6 goals at international level and over 50 caps and just a waste of space in the squad. Take Owen and Bent, Rooney and Defoe Then theres 4 top strikers in the squad all that know where the net is. England just dont score goals in big tournaments thats why it will go 2 a shoot out even if we have played the other team of the pitch.

Posted by mattie | Report as abusive

properenglandfan – you are no proper England fan if you can’t appreciate what Michael Owen has achieved for England over the years. Shame on you!Its sad to say, because Michael Owen is one of the true gentlemen of football in my opinion and fantastically talented, but unfortunately for him he appears to have scored an own goal working for Ferguson. Its as if Ferguson chose him just because he was going for nothing and stopped anyone else the chance of hooking him. I think its a real shame that such a proven talent is left to warm ManU’s bench and for that I have lost any respect I ever had to Ferguson.

Posted by Laura | Report as abusive

There’s a simple solution: Gabby Agbonlahor. It is true that he often has difficulty actually finishing his opportunities and netting, however, his goal scoring record isn’t too bad, and his blazing pace and his direct runs make him a constant threat to any team’s defense.Either way, he’s a better option than Bent, that’s for sure.

Posted by PJ | Report as abusive