History beckons for hit man Owen after double strike

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London, Sep 13: Michael Owen joined a select group of men to score 40 goals for England with his double strike against Russia and then promised there was more to come before the end of his international career.

Owen scored two memorable, contrasting goals in the Group E 3-0 win over the Russians at Wembley yesterday to take his international tally to 40 goals from his 85 internationals.

He is now just 10 goals away from beating Bobby Charlton's all-time England record of 49 goals, and if he does that he will also pass Gary Lineker (48 goals) and Jimmy Greaves (44) in the process.

Charlton scored his tally in 106 internationals, Lineker scored his in 80 games while Greaves' 44 strikes came in just 57 internationals.

His performance yesterday suggests the 27-year-old Newcastle United striker will break the record, which has stood since May 1970, either this year or next.

''I am very proud to have played for my country for almost 10 years and I hope I have many more years left in international football,'' he said afterwards.

''On a personal level it is wonderful to have scored 40 goals for England, it is a real milestone, but it will mean nothing unless we qualify for the finals next year.''

NIGHTMARE OVER

Owen has played 85 games to date and his performances against Israel on Saturday, when he also scored, and on Wednesday indicate his injury nightmare is over and he is back to his lethal best.

On his current form, it is going to be very hard for Wayne Rooney to force his way straight back into the England side after recovering from his recently broken toe.

McClaren would not be drawn on the formation of his team for next month's qualifiers against Estonia and Russia.

However, with Rooney, Frank Lampard, Owen Hargreaves, David Beckham and Gary Neville all likely to be fit again before the end of the qualifiers in November, he is spoilt for choice.

Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Emile Heskey all played well enough to keep their places for the games to come.

England are now second in the group on 20 points -- three behind Croatia and two ahead of Russia and need just five points from their remaining three games -- as long as they get at least a point in Russia next month -- to qualify.

Owen put England ahead with a seventh minute close-range strike, made it 2-0 with a superbly executed volley from just inside the edge of the box and had a hand in Rio Ferdinand's late strike that capped the victory.

Russia had a goal disallowed after 17 minutes when Konstantin Zyryanov was ruled to have handled before scoring.

Reuters>

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