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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rooney could be important in England's attack

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England has a good chance to line-up with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney against Sweden. And everyone wonders about how good would that be.

Thrown into his first start since fracturing his right foot, Rooney has to prove that his fitness is as good as the England camp have claimed. If not, Sven-Göran Eriksson’s squad are in trouble because the Manchester United striker is regarded as the antidote to most of the failings in their opening two World Cup games.

As we know, he is certainly regarded as the cure by Owen, whose place in the starting XI has been questioned by Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables, two former England managers. In fact, having been hauled off twice before the hour, the Newcastle United forward had reason to be concerned that the present England head coach had also lost faith, but he has been buoyed by the news not just that he will play in Cologne , but alongside Rooney.

The return of “Wazza”, as his team-mates call him, restores England’s most potent match-winner and the one player who can glue the rest of the side together. “He is really important, a fantastic player and that type of link player between the two players and the midfield that we need,” Eriksson said.

“We saw when Rooney came on (against Trinidad & Tobago) that maybe he is not 100 per cent, but he kept the ball up there and did some very clever movements and good passes.”

According to reporters, on the training ground, the coaches have been emphasising the need for patience and ball-retention. With Rooney back, there are reasons to hope that we have seen an end to the long, diagonal balls that have earned England minimum marks for style along with maximum points.

Newcastle's Owen is more hopeful than anyone that England will start playing with more variation and imagination. Glenn Roeder, his manager on Tyneside, spoke yesterday about the forward “fighting for scraps off Peter Crouch, which doesn’t suit him”, an analysis that might have come from Owen himself.

“It is very simple,” England’s leading goalscorer said. “We have not been getting the ball in the right areas. I am totally reliant on my team-mates in that respect. If the team are firing on all cylinders and playing well and getting footballers into places where I come alive, then you’ll see a different me.

“If we can get someone just behind me or in center of the ground with their head up, then I come alive. You would think there would not be as many longer balls. You know, Wayne and myself are not that tall. It may encourage players to keep it on the deck a bit more.”


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