England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has admitted he picked Arsenal teenager Theo Walcott for the World Cup despite never having seen him play a match in the flesh.

The 17-year-old striker was surprisingly included in Eriksson’s 23-man World Cup squad.

“I’ve seen him perhaps three times in training,” said Eriksson. “At Arsenal training on Saturday I saw him play 11 against 11 on a half pitch.

“You can see how good the technique is because space is very small. And I saw him do some finishing.”

Arsenal signed Walcott from Southampton in January in a deal worth up to £12.5m but he has yet to play for the London club.

He will not be included in Arsene Wenger’s squad for next week’s Champions League final, but instead will join up with the England squad.

Eriksson said he had been getting regular updates on Walcott from Wenger since he arrived at Highbury.

“I was starting to think about him in January, February and March,” stated Eriksson.

“The first thing I had to check was whether he can handle it and everyone we spoke to said yes. He is a very steady boy.

“I don’t think Walcott or Arsene Wenger thinks he is going to play seven games of 90 minutes in the World Cup.

“If you expect him to have the impact Pele had in 1958, we are talking about the wrong things but I am excited about it.”

Eriksson said Walcott could play in the Wayne Rooney’s role, off the main striker, if the Manchester United star does not recover after breaking a bone in his foot.

Eriksson’s right-hand man, Tord Grip, has closely followed Walcott since he emerged at Southampton.

“The first time I saw him was over a year ago in a tournament in Portugal,” Grip told BBC Sport.

“He played in a 4-3-3 system to the right and did well and then I followed him at Southampton where he got into the first-team and played some Championship games.

“Then we followed him since he became an Arsenal player.

“I’ve been to the Arsenal training ground three or four times and seen him training and in matches.

“He is an exciting player and has got the potential to be very good so, why not take a gamble and see if he can do well for us?

“I think his best position is central striker.”

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