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Owen tips England to progress
Michael Owen expects England to progress from a tough World Cup group this summer - at Italy's expense.
Hopes sank in December when Roy Hodgson's side were drawn against the 2006 champions, as well as Uruguay and Costa Rica, in Group D for the showpiece in Brazil.
But former international Owen, who scored 40 goals in 89 international appearances in a career which took him to Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke, is optimistic.
He told Sportlobster.com: "It is a tough group, but it isn't impossible for England to qualify for the knock-out stages.
"Italy are obviously a decent team, while Uruguay and Costa Rica are also solid. However, England can hold their own.
"If we have any aspirations of winning the World Cup or going far in the tournament, I don't think we should be afraid of any of the three teams.
"I expect England to qualify along with Uruguay."
Owen is relishing the prospect of a tournament in the footballing hotbed of Brazil, despite pre-tournament concerns over infrastructure, but feels a wide field of potential winners stand in the way of the host nation.
"I expect a fantastic tournament," he said. "There is a buzz attached with Brazil with the people, beaches, stadiums and the party atmosphere.
"I wouldn't say Brazil are expected to win it. They will have to perform incredibly well, because the standard is always improving in football. Eight teams are in the mix to lift the trophy."