Can Rooney guide England to Euro 2012 quarter-finals?
Wayne Rooney's return to the England starting line-up has given Roy Hodgson's side an enormous boost ahead of their Group D decider against co-hosts Ukraine at Donbass Arena in Donetsk. The only dilemma for the new England manager would be to choose between Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll playing upfront supported by Rooney in second-strikersrole. Carroll slammed in the opening header while Rooney's club-mate Welbeck got the winner 18 minutes from time.
But no matter who is play, they will rely on goal-scoring machine Rooney, who has played a key role for both club and country since breaking into the international fold back in Euro 2004. Rooney's two-game suspension was a big blow for England, but would it be any different had he played the first two games. The Manchester United forward has a record of 28 goals in 74 caps for England, nearly half the squads tally and nine more than Welbeck, Carroll and Jermain Defoe combined.
Rooney mainly operates behind the main striker or in an attacking midfield position, helping the ball towards either flanks or drifting himself to wide positions to create gaps and scoring opportunities. England's most agile player created 110 chances of which a mere 13 were converted. Rooney is expected to change England's fortunes in Euro 2012 which has rather been little awkward and tensed for Hodgson's Lions.
The French attack seemed unstoppable while the Swedes left the Lions defence sleeping. But for the Ukrainians, its not over yet as they need a win to qualify while a draw could only see them through depending on the outcome of France against Sweden. Prior to the tournament, England fans had high expectations from a new-look English side under new coach Hodgson. Rooney's absence gave young strikers a chance to shine in Europe's biggest stage. But his return could put him under immense pressure as an entire nation's hope rests on his shoulders.
With all the fuss about Rooney's return and England's dream of qualifying, the Lions have to be concerned about Rooney's recent goal-scoring record, not for the club, but country. Rooney has failed to score in nine tournament games since scoring two against Croatia in 2004. Meanwhile, England have to worry more about their back-line after conceding two simple goals against the Swedes. John Terry found it difficult to handle Zlatan Ibrahimovic's strength and pace while Samir Nasri punished the defence for sitting too deep.
Though England are tipped to go through to the last eight, they face an unpredictable Ukrainian side who have the backing of their home support and talisman Andriy Shevchenko.