England’s Plan A – England play Rooney.
England’s Plan B – England rush Rooney back from injury.
Plan C? There’s no freakin’ Plan C.
For a maddening 30 minutes on Saturday, England’s team seemed to be reverting to their worst nightmare – long balls, no cover on the bench for the strikers and worse, utter confusion between Gerrard and Lampard that allowed Paraguay time and space to attack the England back four.
And all this because Eriksson chose to sub Owen out and instead of replacing him with another striker (Arsenal’s Theo Walcott), he turned to Joe Cole in a ‘support striker’ role and used an out-and-out winger (Downing) on the left.
I’ll cover England’s formation, squad and tactical problems later (as well as the infamous ‘heat’ issue), but for now the talk surrounding the England camp is that Rooney may be brought on in the 15th June clash against Trinidad & Tobago match to give him some much-needed match-practice.
Rooney is ‘desperate’ to play in the World Cup
Rooney himself is ‘desperate to return‘, and Eriksson has revealed to the media that he is looking at the possibility of Rooney playing against T & T. This of course means that England wants Rooney to play some role against Sweden, and that he wants to make sure that Rooney has some match time under his belt before then.
Is it smart to risk Rooney? I think it is worth giving him some time on the pitch, and I expect Eriksson to bring Rooney on as a sub against both T & T and against Sweden – both times with a view to help him get match fit for the second round. The point of course is that England should not needRooney to bail them out at this stage – despite the hype they have enough quality – in the team and on the bench – to help them get past the group stages, and even to the quarter finals.
To be fair to Rooney, his injury HAS healed, and the only question left is how much time he needs to get match fit. With Rooney you rarely need much time, but he would want some time on the pitch before going up against the likes of Argentina and Brazil – the class of teams England will need to beat if they are to win the World Cup. The ‘concern’ stems from fears that Rooney may do more damage to his foot under a serious tackle, but both Eriksson and Rooney will be aware of that threat – nothing could be worse than seeing Rooney get injured in a big match like he was in Euro 2004.
Ferguson, Rooney’s manager at United and the most ardent critic of Eriksson’s insistence of taking Rooney to the World Cup, is on vacation since before the World Cup started – that is somewhat of a good thing, because after Rooney made it clear that he wanted to take the risk and Eriksson said that it was ‘his decision’ when Rooney would play made it pretty obvious that Ferguson could not do much. Ferguson is usually above the comments that you are reading in the media about Eriksson mucking it in strategy and the first comments that you will hear from him will be when he gets back from his vacation for United’s pre-season trip to South Africa. If Rooney is injured then, expect hell from United and Ferguson.
Will England fans see this sight in the 2006 World Cup?
One last point to note is where Rooney will fit in to the team. Crouch has shown himself to be immensely useful in his role as the target man, and his form means that Owen, England’s talisman scorer for so long, will have his position under threat. Owen is still miles off pace and was subbed on Saturday because he wasnt playing too well – he will get another chance to impress against T & T and maybe against Sweden as well, but if Rooney returns and Owen is still playing poorly, who will make way if Rooney were to start?
Eriksson has been credited for taking a few gambles this summer (especially with the inclusion of Theo Walcott in the squad) but he has not shown much promise with his substitutions and his gameplan against Paraguay disappointed many. If rushing Rooney back from injury really is Eriksson’s Plan B, then we have a problem.