Michael Owen reveals U20 World Cup was a 'big stepping stone' for his career
By Jamie Bradbury
Michael Owen says the FIFA U20 World Cup was a 'big stepping stone' in his career and believes it can be invaluable to players with dreams of becoming full internationals.
The Stoke City striker, who recently announced his plans to retire from playing at the end of the season, had only made a handful of appearances for his first club Liverpool before he boarded a plane for the U20 Finals in 1997.
It was one of England's best displays at the tournament in recent memory, as Ted Powell's young charges, featuring Owen, Jamie Carragher and Danny Murphy, won all three group games in Malaysia before going out to eventual winners Argentina.
Since then, however, the Three Lions have scored just one goal in four tournaments and failed to win any of their last 13 matches.
And as Peter Taylor, who was appointed Head Coach to lead England's charge in Turkey, prepares for the draw in Istanbul on Monday evening, Owen says it will be important to take a strong team this summer.
He told TheFA.com: “It’s obviously a big tournament and you get a lot of exceptional players.
"We played against Aimar, Riquelme and Cambiasso in the Argentina team who beat us 2-1 in the last-16 stage.
"There was myself, Jamie Carragher and other players who went on to make it professionally, so it is a high-quality competition with some exceptional talent playing.
"With all of these things, it’s important to go over with a strong team. It was certainly an important tournament in my progression and having a coach like Peter Taylor will be really positive."
Owen had only just broken into the first team at Anfield when he arrived in Malaysia and went on to net three of England's eight goals in the group stages.
A year later he scored that goal against the Argentinians at France 98 when he burst onto the World stage.
He added: "It was a productive tournament, I’d only played two games for Liverpool, I’d just made my debut when we went to Malaysia, and it was another big stepping stone for my football education, especially at international level.
"It is a big tournament, playing in Malaysia was an experience in itself. Just playing in different countries, different cultures, different temperatures is a big learning curve..
"I was very lucky I played at every level [for England] and that helped me adapt quicker than I normally would have.
"You are used to playing away in tournaments, what to do with your spare time, playing games against different styles of football."
"We’re talking about an age where players are just about to break through [into their club’s first team].
"Something like this, if they are going to go on to become international players, will be invaluable experience to get out there and play in it."