LONDON, Apr 30 (Reuters) England's World Cup attacking options were in disarray today with Wayne Rooney in danger of missing the whole tournament after suffering a foot fracture and Michael Owen struggling to recover from a similar injury.
Rooney broke a bone in his right foot at Chelsea yesterday and the gifted 20-year-old's club Manchester United said he would be out for six weeks.
His strike partner Owen, who also broke a bone in his right foot in December, said he felt uncomfortable after making a 30-minute comeback for Newcastle United yesterday.
The general consensus among pundits speaking to the British media today was that without Rooney, England's chances of World Cup victory were greatly reduced.
Without both players they were slimmer still.
''It's depressingly sad. Without Rooney, I think we have gone from possible World Cup winners to outsiders,'' former England manager Bobby Robson told BBC radio.
''We can't replace Rooney, I don't think there's another player like him in the country... there's hardly another player like him in Europe,'' added Robson, who steered England to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals in Italy.
''The people who win World Cups are individuals, your top individuals.'' Robson believes England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has a tough decision to make whether to include Rooney when he names his 23-man squad on May 15, FIFA's deadline.
''If it's six weeks out plus preparation time, he can't make it but if he can play within six weeks then you take him,'' he said.
''We have enough quality, I would hope, to beat the teams that we have to face in the group matches. What you need then is your top players for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final, that's when Rooney becomes crucial.'' NO ALTERNATIVE Last month, Eriksson was quoted as saying he would take Rooney even if he had fitness doubts.
''If Rooney has a small problem, would you still take him?'' the Swede said.
''What alternative do you have?... If you have a centre-half who might not be ready you can take another one but can you find another Rooney?'' England face Paraguay, Trinidad&Tobago and Sweden between June 10 and 20. Their second round match, assuming they finish in the top-two in Group B, will be on June 24 or 25.
Rooney, who has a fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his right foot, suffered a crack in the fifth metatarsal in England's Euro 2004 quarter-final against Portugal.
England were eliminated in that match.
Owen broke the fifth metatarsal at the end of last year and required surgery. He said after coming on as a substitute against Birmingham City that he was not entirely comfortable.
Newcastle's caretaker manager Glenn Roeder told BBC radio: ''He's just feeling a slight dull pain in the area.
''I think at this stage it would be a mistake to start getting hysterical about it and say Michael is going to miss the World Cup.
''It doesn't bear thinking about, not having Rooney or Owen for the World Cup.'' England were missing injured midfielders Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy and defender Gary Neville at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where they reached the quarter-finals.
Neville and Murphy had both suffered metatarsal injuries while captain David Beckham travelled to Asia while recovering from a similar injury and admitted after England's elimination that he had not been fully fit.
REUTERS PG PM1605