Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Will Qualify; McClaren Backs His Under-Fire Side to Make Finals and Insists There Is No Rift with Rooney

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Will Qualify; McClaren Backs His Under-Fire Side to Make Finals and Insists There Is No Rift with Rooney

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER

STEVE McCLAREN came out fighting today and insisted that England will qualify for the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland next summer despite Saturday's drab goalless draw in Israel.

The head coach also claimed the whole squad were united and that there was no "rift" with Wayne Rooney.

However, he refused to say whether the pair had words after the match in Tel Aviv, preferring to state: "What happens in the dressing room, happens in the dressing room and it is private and I don't want to discuss that."

Reports this morning suggested that Rooney had lost his temper after being blamed for Saturday's poor performance.

The result - which McClaren claimed before the match in Tel Aviv was a must-win - has kept the team third in the group, three points behind Russia in the second qualification spot.

McClaren now says that England must get six points from their next two games - against Andorra on Wednesday and away in Estonia on 6 June - if they are to have any chance of making it to Euro 2008. He said: "At the present moment we are disappointed because we went to Israel for a win, we played as if we wanted to win the game and we had to accept a draw.

"The group is difficult and Russia are three points ahead of us at the moment.

"We have to win against Andorra and we have to win against Estonia and then we have got five games to go in which we play Russia twice and in which we play Croatia at home - and they are going to be the big games.

"They will be the games that decide it and I have been involved in three qualifying campaigns and it always boils down to the last few games."

When asked if he feared England would fail to reach a major tournament for the first time since Graham Taylor's team bombed out before the World Cup in the United States in 1994, McClaren replied: "I don't see it like that, I am not even thinking about it, I am very confident. …

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