Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Can Gamble on Rooney Return If We Silence Trinidad

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sven Can Gamble on Rooney Return If We Silence Trinidad

Article excerpt


IT IS ironic Sven-Goran Eriksson will make one of the most difficult decisions of his time as England boss as he pockets his final cheque from the Football Association.

Throughout his five years in charge he has smiled benignly at the controversy surrounding him and his job but here he has the chance to show that he's been worth his [pounds sterling]4million-a-year salary.

The decision he has to take over the question of Wayne Rooney's fitness may prove to be the defining moment of his England career. If the Swede gets it right, the returning Rooney may generate an impetus that propels England to the World Cup Final. In such circumstances he will become a national hero.

But if he gets it wrong Eriksson will depart for fresh pastures amid a swirl of bitter recrimination.

His preparation and judgement will be questioned. His decision to select just four strikers - two handicapped by fitness worries and one a 17-year-old, who has not even played in the Premiership - will be thrown back in his face.

Sir Alex Ferguson will claim: "I told you so!"

Such is Manchester United's disquiet that far worse could follow should their prized striker suffer further injury while on England duty.

The timing of Rooney's return has become the key issue in the final chapter of Eriksson's reign as England coach. His team's inability to capitalise on first-half possession in the unconvincing 1-0 win over Paraguay underlined just how much England miss the pace, strength, vision and menace of United's young bruiser.

Rooney is highly unlikely to play against Trinidad on Thursday because the two independent doctors who examined him in Manchester last week still do not feel he is ready to play until the Sweden match. Professors Angus Wallace and Chris Moran from the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham have stuck by their original assessment that the striker should not play before the end of the group stages.

The history books tell us that the outstanding players in the World Cup have separated the great teams from the merely good ones. Pele, Bobby Charlton, Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho are among the immortals who have shown the world what can be achieved by creative genius. …

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