Wednesday 13 December 2017

England sweat over Walcott

Jason Burt in Krakow

THEO WALCOTT has suffered an injury setback but is still expected to be fit to play against Ukraine tomorrow.

The winger is suffering from a tight hamstring -- a problem that affected him at the end of the season and has limited his training -- jeopardising his chances of challenging for a place in the starting line-up.

England manager Roy Hodgson confirmed last night that Walcott's fitness is a concern.

"Unfortunately, he had a slight setback in training, and that's the major concern with him," Hodgson said.

"He felt the hamstring and we were slightly concerned about that when he came to us.

"Whether he's a real contender for a starting position will depend to some extent on what the medical people can tell me and how much guarantee they can give me that if I do start him in the game he won't be leaving after five minutes."

The likelihood is that Hodgson will persist with James Milner on the right, with Ashley Young on the left to accommodate the return of Wayne Rooney, who is expected to take Andy Carroll's place in the forward line despite the Liverpool striker's wondrous headed goal against Sweden.

"He has got awesome qualities and is back involved now," Carroll said of Rooney. "In training he has done everything and that's what we need in games. It might give us a good lift now for the later stages of the tournament. It will be fantastic to have him back."

After the Sweden match Danny Welbeck said that the fact he was the club team-mate of "world-class" Rooney might be "in my favour" when it came to Hodgson's starting selection for the Ukraine game.

The 21-year-old Manchester United striker started and impressed in England's first group match against France. In 18 games together for United, the forward pair have scored 30 goals.

England need only a point against Ukraine at the Donbass Arena to progress into the quarter-finals but they are acutely aware that playing for a draw could be dangerous against the host nation, who still harbour hopes of reaching the last eight themselves.

England trained behind closed doors yesterday -- having initially planned to allow cameras in for the first 15 minutes of their session -- ahead of flying to Donetsk today.

There has been some concern over John Terry's fitness, but he is understood to be ready to play.

A number of other players including Ashley Cole, Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard did not take a full part in training although that is not unusual.

Meanwhile, Cole is primed to break the record for most England appearances in tournament football.

He currently shares the record of 20 appearances with Peter Shilton and David Beckham, but will make his 21st tournament appearance against Ukraine. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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