Wayne Rooney likely to be used in centre for World Cup 2014 clash with Uruguay
England boss Roy Hodgson hints at giving striker chance to silence his critics by playing him alongside Daniel Sturridge or in No 10 position during training
Wayne Rooney is on course to be given a chance to shine in his favoured central position for England against Uruguay on Thursday.
Striker Rooney spent the whole of Tuesday’s closed training session at England’s Urca base either in the No 10 role or alongside Daniel Sturridge. Although manager Roy Hodgson is yet to name his side for the Group D match in Sao Paulo, the intense hour-and-a-half workout provided a big clue that Rooney would be granted his wish.
Raheem Sterling, who played behind Sturridge against Italy, spent most of training on the right with Danny Welbeck on the left. Should Hodgson make changes in personnel and freshen up his team, Adam Lallana is most likely to come in, having impressed England’s staff.
Hodgson’s biggest quandary and challenge is whether to stick with Rooney and how to get the best out of him. The 28-year-old set up a goal for Sturridge against Italy, but did not provide a goal threat from either flank. Despite being England’s fifth highest scorer of all time with 39 goals, he is yet to find the net in a World Cup finals.
Hodgson is thought to be worried that the debate surrounding Rooney is starting to get to the Manchester United player and is swaying towards giving him an opportunity to silence his critics in his favoured position.
Frank Lampard, the England vice-captain, said: “If you are a human being, no matter how tough you are, if there are people constantly debating your position I don’t see how that can be positive. If you want people to do well, I don’t see how you can keep focusing on one player rather than the team and say that might not be detrimental, no matter what the ability of the player, whether it’s Messi or Neymar or whoever.
“We are slightly over-fixated on one player, who has been our best player, our top goalscorer in qualifying and will break the England goalscoring record. Wayne is an exceptional player, as we all know. If we are going to do well in this World Cup, players like Wayne are going to come to the fore because that is what they do.”
Rooney would be most happy playing behind or alongside Sturridge against Uruguay, but will need to grasp his chance.
“Wayne can cover different positions,” Lampard added. “I loved him up front as a striker for England and at times for Manchester United. He can play the 10 role fantastically well. He can do the left role as well. It is difficult. Sometimes you have to adapt to circumstances.
“Wayne has played on the left in Alex Ferguson teams and got very good results away from home in Europe. You can over-analyse the positional thing a bit.”
Having undertaken extra training with the reserves on Monday, Rooney rejoined the main group on Tuesday and again worked hard to impress Hodgson, as he was one of the final three players to leave the field.
Sterling insists he will have no problem moving to the right to accommodate Rooney in the centre, saying: “It is up to the manager to decide. That is my normal position out on the wing so with Wayne’s vision and his passing ability and my running ability, it could be a really, really good thing.
“Some of the stuff Wayne does with the ball, you try to take little clips out of his play and try to really learn from that. He is a world-class player, I’ve watched him growing up. He is someone I looked up to, so to have trained with him at this camp has been a real honour. He works really hard and is always improving as well.”
Other than preparing to face Uruguay, Hodgson has clearly not given up on England reaching the knock-out stages as he again set-up a penalty shoot-out at the end of training.
As was the case last week, a special shoot-out net was put up with target holes to hit, and no goalkeeper.
England’s five takers were Rooney, Lampard, captain Steven Gerrard, Rickie Lambert and Leighton Baines.
Luis Suárez has declared himself fit to face England and the Uruguay striker looked comfortable during 20 minutes of open training yesterday. He completed passing and dribbling exercises with Diego Forlan and did not appear to suffer any pain.
“It’s been a hard couple of days because of the defeat to Costa Rica,” Suárez said. “I want to thank everybody for all the support we received these [last few] days and to tell you to stay calm, we’re going to give our best against England. And, trust us, we’re the first who want to move forward.
“England have really good players who I played against all year. I know their defenders, the strikers and the coach as well. They played very well against Italy and if they continue at this level they could do really well.”
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was aiming to be fit for the Uruguay clash, but again trained on his own. He has stepped up his recovery from a knee injury and fired balls into an empty net. But he was not part of the training games and his best hope looks to be to make the substitutes’ bench.