Euro-Rooney return gives Hodgson selection poser

Reuters, Saturday 16 Jun 2012

Hodgson, who is proving to be a man capable of making cool decisions in the heat of a fierce contest, has already made clear he will select Rooney for his first appearance of Euro 2012

Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney, left, and manager Roy Hodgson listen during the official training on the eve of the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group D match between Sweden and England in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (Photo: AP)

After two unbeaten displays characterised by defensive organisation, determination and team spirit, manager Roy Hodgson will face a "welcome" selection problem for England's final Euro 2012 Group D game against Ukraine on Tuesday.

The return of striker Wayne Rooney after a two-game suspension, means not only that he will change a winning team following England's dramatic 3-2 triumph over Sweden in Kiev on Friday, but also that he will be forced to omit one of the young strikers he praised for their performance.

Both Andy Carroll, 23, and Danny Welbeck, 21, scored impressive goals, with a towering header and clever back-heeled shot respectively, to earn their manager's appreciation and confirm the arrival of a new younger generation.

Hodgson, who is proving to be a man capable of making cool decisions in the heat of a fierce contest, has already made clear he will select Rooney for his first appearance of Euro 2012.

Rooney was suspended for two games following his sending off for kicking Miodrag Dzudovic during the final qualifier against Montenegro in October.

Hodgson has yet to decide who the Manchester United forward replaces, what role he will play and if he changes the shape and style of his robust and functional team.

A self-confessed pragmatist, Hodgson is expected to continue to rely on a solid defence with Rooney adding a measure of control to an attack that often seems detached from the rest of the team.

Match-winning substitute Theo Walcott, who scored his first international goal for four years and then set up the winner for Welbeck, believes unleashing Rooney will give England added impetus in their bid to win the group and avoid defending champions Spain, the probable winners of Group C.

Walcott said: "I am sure Wayne will get his opportunity. He'll want to make up for time he's missed -- he will want to make it up to all of the lads.

"He is such a world-class player. It would be tough to leave him out but that's the manager's decision. We'll see what happens..."

Despite his impact as a traditional centre-forward, Carroll looks most likely to make way in a move that could give England's offensive play greater fluency, particularly as Rooney, Welbeck and Ashley Young are club-mates at Manchester United.


Walcott, for one, said he believed that Welbeck has the natural talent to flourish as the tournament unfolds.

"That chance was massive, but Danny made it look easy," he said. "It was class, probably one of the best goals at this tournament and I am not just saying that because he's my friend.

"That goal had everything and shows that, despite being at such a young age he can do the business."

He added that he was relieved, too, to have scored, his deflected shot being his first since striking a hat-trick against Croatia in a World Cup qualifier in 2008.

"I have finally got that scoring monkey off my back, but I surprised myself. I thought the shot took a deflection which is why my celebration was a little bit odd, but I've seen it again and it didn't.

"I didn't know I had that sort of 'Ronaldo dip' in me. I should try it more often. To score is special, not just for me but for my family watching back home."

As Walcott celebrated, Hodgson pondered.

"I welcome those kind of selection problems," he said. "I was really pleased with the performance of the front players, but Wayne Rooney is a special player and, frankly, it will be hard to leave him out."

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