England forecast: Wayne clouds brewing heated start debate
Roy Hodgson faces a headache, and it is one shared by quite possibly a whole nation. Should Wayne Rooney start against Uruguay? It is a similar conundrum to the one Spain boss Vicente del Bosque faced two years at Euro 2012 when there was a debate over whether to start with a proven centre forward.
Against Italy, Rooney, who is 7/1 to be England’s World Cup top scorer, was shunted out to the left, to accommodate the extremely effective Raheem Sterling behind Daniel Sturridge, and although the Manchester United star created the equaliser, he was largely ineffectual.
Which raises the debate, has the rise of Sterling spelled an end to Rooney’s starting credentials?
One thing we learned from the Group D opening games is that Uruguay are there for the taking and no longer have the fear factor that they had at the last World Cup in South Africa.
Granted, they were without Luis Suarez, who has been wrapped up in cotton wool so that he can face England, though he certainly won’t be 100 per cent fit. That much was certain by boss Oscar Tabarez’s refusal to bring the Liverpool player on when Uruguay were struggling to take the initiative in the second half against Costa Rica. He’s nowhere near ready, and the South Americans are vulnerable and running scared.
Sun Tzu’s Art of War states to a degree; “If your enemy is superior, evade them, if angry irritate, if evenly-matched fight, if not, split, re-evaluate.” Hodgson seems to be employing at least one of these tactics. Recognising the Uruguayan’s are inevitably hurt and angry by their defeat, he has twisted the knife in their wound, saying Suarez needs to perform at the World Cup to be considered world class. Handily for England, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson will have marked him in training time and again while at Liverpool and Hodgson will inevitably have a plan to contain him.
There was nothing to suggest from Group D’s opening round of fixtures that Uruguay are more superior than England, who are now 15/2 to top Group D. Therefore Rooney can and should be left out. La Celeste’s defence showed they are susceptible to being pulled around and dragged out of position. Playing Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana behind Sturridge has the potential to provide England with a devastating cutting edge attack.
Obviously, that is Lallana in for Rooney. Far more creative, he has shown at Southampton that he can unlock defences, and more importantly, like Sterling and Sturridge, has no fear.
Rooney is dangerous when he isn’t getting his way, and is either criticised or dropped. We have seen it time and again for Manchester United. Keep him on the bench until the 70th minute and then not only substitute him, but unleash him like a coiled spring.
As an impact player, he is possibly one of the best in global football. Yes, one of the best.