Houseman: England must win

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EXCLUSIVE
RENE HOUSEMAN, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1978, expects that England's clash with his countrymen on Friday will end up as a draw.

With Argentina having won their first game 1-0 against Nigeria, they are in the box seat in the 2002 competition's 'Group of Death'.

Although England only managed a 1-1 draw with Sweden, they are not as bad as some sections of the media would have us believe and even a draw with Argentina would not rule them out.

However, with the scale of the game not in question, Houseman believes that overall a point a-piece will be a fair result but this will not be to England's advantage.

Speaking exclusively to Planetfootball.com, Houseman said: "I believe it will be a draw, which will not help England!

"England has all the pressure to win because if they lose they are out.

"The game could be decided in the first 20 minutes because if Argentina comes out pressing it will be hard for England, but if Argentina plays the sitting game then England could take advantage."

Whilst both sides have looked to play down the importance of the game and attempted to keep a sense of perspective, the amount of hype surrounding it has increased, with both countries' media largely to blame.

However, despite the sense of respect on the surface, Houseman believes that Argentina are not worried about the English, saying: "I don't think that Argentinian players fear the English.

"I think they respect them no matter what anyone says.  The respect is mutual in my opinion.  I believe Ortega and Batistuta will make a game of it because, after all, Ortega wants to play in England so he will try to play a good game.

"I would start with Batistuta for the experience but I have liked Crespo (pictured) since he was a young boy who I recommended when he was only 17-years-old to Feyenoord and they said he was too young then."

Looking over the defence, Houseman added: "I believe that Ayala is a great player but also Pochettino and Samuel.  I believe that Owen will be tightly marked - don't you think that Ortega will also??"

Asked to conclude the importance of the game, Houseman pointed to the lack of self-respect in the average Argentinian which could change with a win against 'the old enemy'.

"It is a matter of pride because there is too many other factors involved, not only sports wise but also political which I don't like," said Houseman.

He added: "I said that Argentina and England were the teams to beat and that is still my prediction.

"If France continues to play like they are at the moment, they can pack their bags and go home from today!"

When asked to state his men of the tournament so far, Houseman said: "It is too early to predict a good player but you see Recoba, Ortega, Owen and many more that are there showing flashes of greatness.

"The more the tournament progresses the sooner you will separate the men from the boys."