Monday 19 March 2018

Rooney out to top Shearer in scoring stakes

England manager Roy Hodgson (R) and captain Wayne Rooney speak to the media ahead of tonight's game against San Marino
England manager Roy Hodgson (R) and captain Wayne Rooney speak to the media ahead of tonight's game against San Marino

Jamie Holland

Stand-in captain Wayne Rooney has his sights on becoming one of England's top five goalscorers when Roy Hodgson's side tackle minnows San Marino at Wembley tonight.

Rooney has bagged 29 goals, so two more against the side ranked 207th in the world would lift him into fifth spot and above Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney, who all netted 30 times.

Hodgson has given no indication whether Ashley Cole, who has accepted a charge of misconduct for an offensive Twitter post, will win his 99th cap.

The manager would not "quantify" what he regarded as a respectable winning margin against a side who have won just one of the 114 games in their entire history and have conceded 473 goals along the way.

Meanwhile, Scotland manager Craig Levein has backed his players to handle the pressure as they bid to deliver their first win of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Scots head into tonight's qualifier against Wales well aware of the expectations to produce the goods following a difficult start to Group A.

Hopes were high of taking maximum points from the opening two games against Serbia and Macedonia, but Levein's men were forced to settle for just two points from the double-header last month.

The Tartan Army now hope that a trip to Cardiff will kick-start the campaign, and the manager has no fears about his players' ability to cope with the occasion.

"I don't think there is going to be any worry at all in our team about being able to handle the pressure," Levein said.

Wales are also under pressure to bolster their own hopes after losing their opening two matches -- including a 6-1 thrashing to Serbia.

Manager Chris Coleman said: "In terms of us doing a bit of damage in this group, then we have to get a win as quickly as we can. Why not this one?"

"Scotland are coming down and they are not going to lie down for us -- they're under their own pressure."

World and European champions Spain face a tricky trip to Belarus. The Spanish know only too well that their Group I game in Minsk is far from a foregone conclusion after Bayern Munich lost 3-1 at Belarussian champions BATE Borisov in the Champions League last week.

A late 1-0 win in Georgia for the world and European champions in their group opener last month was also a reminder of the tiresome cliche that there are "no easy games".

Cristiano Ronaldo, who injured a shoulder during last Sunday's Clasico, is expected to be fit to play for Portugal in their crucial Group F clash with Russia in Moscow, but defender Pepe is a doubt.

Belgium -- many pundits' outside tip to shine when the soccer carnival rolls into Brazil in two years' time -- will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini when they take on Serbia in Belgrade.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport