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Ferdinand sees echoes of Owen in Walcott
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Theo Walcott has been giving his England team-mate Rio Ferdinand a sense of deja-vu ahead of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan and the Manchester United defender has only just worked out why.

Walcott has an inner confidence that seems eerily familiar and Ferdinand traces it back to the World Cup Finals in 1998 when Michael Owen first burst onto the international scene as a raw and exciting 18-year-old.

Now he believes the 19-year-old Arsenal winger has the potential to follow in Owen's footsteps and become a major name in world football.

"The self confidence Theo has got is amazing," Ferdinand said. "He knows what he's good at and I remember Michael was exactly the same. I was with him the whole time at the 1998 World Cup in France and he just knew he was a good player and he knew what he was good at, even then.

"That's the thing that Michael had, at that time especially. He knew what he was good at and that's what he made his game around.

"He was quick, direct and he could score a goal and you can see that in Theo. Different players but the same mentality."

Owen, of course, announced himself to the world by scoring one of the most iconic World Cup goals of all time in England's last 16 tie against Argentina that year and now it is down to Walcott to carry on the tradition.

Ten years later Owen's illustrious England career could well be nearing an end after being left out of the most recent squad by manager Fabio Capello despite remaining his country's current top scorer with 40 goals. But there is a new teenage hero in town.

Walcott's hat-trick in last month's 4-1 win over Croatia confirmed his potential and Ferdinand expects him to continue his progress over the next two games against Kazakhstan at Wembley and Belarus in Minsk.

"As a young player it's difficult to come in front of the media or a room full of senior internationals and start holding court. But he can do it," Ferdinand said.

"I think he's two or three years of it in the background and now he's coming into the foreground a little bit more and taken it in his stride."

"Going to the 2006 World Cup was good experience for him. I think more than anything you learn how people are around the hotel, how they're relaxing, what they eat, how they train and how they prepare themselves for a game. And then how they come down after a game in a tournament situation.

"That was an invaluable experience for me at Euro 96 when I got to see the likes of Gazza, Paul Ince, Tony Adams, Shearer, Sheringham and those kind of experienced players. To see them first hand and how they reacted in team situations was good for me. And it's the same for Theo.

"Going to a tournament you can see what others have done and take things from that to deal with your own situation.

(AFP via China Daily October 10, 2008)

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