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'England have best shot ever at World Cup'

Michael Owen warned on Sunday that he is determined not to let his side's best chance of winning the World Cup slip by.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2006 17:35 IST

England's leading goalscorer Michael Owen warned on Sunday that he is determined not to let his side's best chance of winning the World Cup slip by.

The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid forward, who has scored 33 goals in 74 internationals, believes he has now reached his peak and wants to prove this in Germany.

"These are my third World Cup finals and I feel I'm reaching my peak as a footballer. I'm 26, and hopefully this is my time," the Newcastle star told The News of the World.

"I don't think I will ever have a better chance of winning the World Cup.

"With England, I know I'm playing with such good players that if I get in the right positions I'll score.

"We have a great blend in the squad. There are a lot of players around my age who have experience of the Champions League and international tournaments.

"We have people with a bit of magic who can win a game. We have a cracking back four, a great keeper and teams will have to do well to score against us.

"The midfield is well balanced and up front you would think Wayne Rooney or I could nick a goal or two.

"We are happy with our lot. There are no foregone conclusions but you would have to say we have a chance along with about six other teams.

"The ultimate would be to win it. If we don't come back with the trophy there is going to be disappointment."

Owen has mixed memories of previous World Cup finals after bursting onto the international stage in 1998 with a goal against Argentina.

Four years later, Owen pushed himself through the pain barrier as England suffered defeat in the quarter-finals against Brazil, having picked up a hamstring injury in the previous round against Denmark.

"In 1998, the finals changed my life completely after scoring that goal against Argentina," he said.

"There were good things and bad things that happened from there. I went back to my club as a hero for my national team but it was harder to please the Liverpool fans.

"Until we won the treble at Liverpool in 2001, I had not won any major trophies. The crowd were hungry for success and I had to help provide it.

"When you are at the World Cup finals, you think nothing else matters.

"At that age, I thought it was either going to make my life or ruin it. Then you grow up and realise there will be plenty more opportunities for you.

"I felt unfulfilled after 2002 because we thought there was a chance of winning. We got to the quarters, which was OK, but not fantastic. There have been regrets after every tournament I've been to. I've scored in the finals of two World Cups and two European Championships, so there are some positives.

"I gained more know-how in 2002 and now I have even more experience. I know what it takes to win, score goals and be in the right positions."

Owen has shrugged off the controversy surrounding England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's departure after the World Cup finals, preferring instead to focus on returning to action for Newcastle as he sits out another six weeks with a broken bone in his right foot.

"I'd love to be playing now. The timing wasn't perfect for Newcastle. They pay my wages and my priority is to get back in a Newcastle shirt. I am pleased to be back in the Premiership.

"I think I have developed into a more rounded person and footballer after my year in Spain.

"It is great playing in good teams that create chances and I felt I was doing that with Newcastle before I got injured. I scored seven goals in 10 games and that isn't bad going.

"I was in a nice vein of form before the injury and I'm sure that will come back once I start playing again."

First Published: Jan 29, 2006 17:35 IST