Michael Owen was handed the England armband on this day.
Six months earlier this fixture looked like it might not be necessary. England’s World Cup qualification aspirations were hanging by a thread and it wasn’t until captain David Beckham scored that
free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford that the Three Lions could look forward to their preparations for Korea/Japan 2002.
This match against Paraguay on 17 April 2002 was England’s last game on home soil before setting off for the Far East, and Sven Goran Eriksson’s men put the Anfield crowd in optimistic mood as his charges ran out convincing 4-0 winners – even without ‘golden balls’ Beckham.
In his absence, the armband was picked up by Michael Owen, making him the youngest player – at 22 years and four months – to captain the national side since Bobby Moore. The added responsibility, however, did not seem to faze the man who had terrorised Germany in England’s earlier 5-1 Qualifier victory, and the Liverpool forward was on hand to nod in England’s opening goal from a Steven Gerrard free-kick after just four minutes.
With Eriksson’s World Cup squad set to be announced soon after this game, players were still keen to impress and youngsters like Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves and Wayne Bridge all produced assured appearances that would contribute to their inclusion the final 23-man set-up.
Further goals were added by Danny Murphy, a deflected Darius Vassell shot and an own goal from Ayala to make it four for the Three Lions and pack them of with a deserved and convincing victory.