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Balanced England tops Group B

June 5, 2006 at 11:58 AM   |   Comments

BERLIN, June 5 (UPI) -- It's a mixture of old and young that looks to carry England in Group B of the 2006 World Cup.

The team captain is longtime favorite David Beckham but as many eyes will be looking for Wayne Rooney. Rooney, however, is recovering from a fracture in his right foot and isn't likely to see World Cup action until after group play.

Missing Rooney takes some of its strength, but England is still the team to beat in Group B, as its 8-1-1 record in qualifying play indicates. There are other young players, including 17-year-old Theo Walcott, looking to make an international mark.

Sweden will rely on offense, and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in tow, goals should be plentiful. Ibrahimovic and the rest of the Swedes are also young, averaging 24 years of age. Sweden is still stinging from, after winning its group in 2002, being eliminated by Senegal in the last World Cup.

Paraguay will have to overcome some problems on offense, behind Jose Saturnino Cardozo, to move through this tournament. It should be in close games, however, with goaltender Justo Villar anchoring the defense.

Trinidad and Tobago was the 32nd team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup and play during qualifying was uneven. Some prime players, such as Dwight Yorke, play in English leagues, but this team is a long way from that level.

England has high hopes for this World Cup and isn't likely to let round-robin play slow it down. Sweden has had England's number in the past and, even if it doesn't win Group B, should advance. The Sweden-England pairing comes June 20, and could be one of the highlights of group play.

Group B play begins Saturday with England meeting Paraguay in Frankfurt, Germany, and Trinidad and Tobago going against Sweden in Dortmund, Germany.

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