England vs Ukraine : Match starts at 11:45 pm (PST), England look to Rooney for last eight berth
KRAKOW: England hope the entrance of Wayne Rooney will seal the exit of Ukraine as Roy Hodgson’s side aim to wrap up qualification for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Tuesday.
A 3-2 victory over Sweden on Friday has sent confidence coursing through English ranks, with goals scored by Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck suddenly giving Hodgson a range of options in attack. But it is the return of Rooney from suspension that will give England an extra jolt of optimism as they seek the point they need to clinch a place in the last eight at Donetsk’s Donbass Arena. A fully-fit Rooney is champing at the bit to enter the fray after serving his two-match ban for being sent off in England’s final qualifier last year.
“Obviously I’m delighted to be back part of the team and the squad and to be involved again,” the Manchester United star said. “The lads have done great to put us in the position we are in now and hopefully I’ll get a chance to play and try and shine and help us get through the group.” Rooney has ruled out England playing for a draw despite the fact that a point would be enough to secure their passage to the last eight. “The same as the first two games, we’ll go into the game wanting to win and wanting the three points,” he said. “If we have to take a point then we’ll happily do that, but we’re going into the game trying to get the three points.”
Rooney is also convinced England have the ability to mount a successful challenge at the Euros. “I think we’re good enough (to win it),” Rooney said. “We’ve got the players to. I know, obviously, everyone doesn’t want us to build up expectations but I firmly believe that we’ve got the players. “Obviously, you need a bit of luck as well but I believe we’ve got a good opportunity. We’ve always believed.” England’s preparations suffered a setback late Sunday after it emerged that Walcott, who had been strongly tipped to replace James Milner in the starting line-up, had pulled up in training with a hamstring problem.
“Unfortunately Theo had a slight setback in training, and that’s the major concern with him,” Hodgson said. “He felt the hamstring that, of course, kept him out for so long at the end of last season and we were slightly concerned about that when he came to us. But we’ve been lucky that nothing occurred with that (since then).” Hodgson meanwhile is confident his team will be able to cope with an intimidating atmosphere in Donetsk. Hodgson believes England will benefit from the experience of last Friday in Kiev, where an estimated 20,000 Swedish fans drowned out England’s smaller band of around 4,000 supporters to create a hostile atmosphere.
“We’re getting used to playing away from home,” Hodgson said. “We’ve already played in an away game, we have to prepare for another away game. “That’s what happens – when you get drawn into a pool with the host nation you have to accept you’re literally playing away from home.” Ukraine captain Andrei Shevchenko meanwhile said the hosts would have to raise their game after the bubble of euphoria created by their opening win over Sweden was punctured so clinically in last Friday’s 2-0 defeat to France. “We knew it was a very difficult game and the French played really well, especially in the second half. But we still have a chance,” Shevchenko said. “We know that if we can beat England we’ll qualify for the knockout stage.
(But) we’ll have to play much better than we did against France if we want to beat England. They are definitely one of the most dangerous teams here. “They had a good result against France and they beat Sweden, so they’ve had a great start. Home advantage helps us a lot.” Shevchenko, who faces a late fitness test on Monday after damaging a knee in training, also warned his side against focusing excessively on the threat posed by the returning Rooney. “I know he’s a very good player and someone who can change the team,” Shevchenko said. “But the whole England team is very good. They are most dangerous from set-pieces, corners and free-kicks. We will have to watch that.”-Dailytimes