Wayne Rooney is back from suspension ahead of England's last remaining group game at Euro 2012. Should the star striker stroll back into the first team? Sky Sports looks at both sides of the argument
Last Updated: June 19, 2012 9:29am
Wayne Rooney: Has served a two-match suspension and is expected to face Ukraine on Tuesday
England are one point away from the knockout stages of Euro 2012 as they prepare to take on co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday. They have reached that position without the services of star striker Wayne Rooney, who has been suspended for the first two games. The Manchester United man looks set to return to Roy Hodgson's first XI. But should the Three Lions tinker with a winning formula after defeating Sweden? Sky Sports discusses the case.
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Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was the highest English scorer in last season's Premier League by a clear distance.
He scored 27 top-flight goals - 12 ahead of the next most prolific English striker, Norwich City's Grant Holt, who notched 15.
In total, he has so far scored 37 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions this season - way clear of the other strikers in Roy Hodgson's squad.
Danny Welbeck has scored 14 goals in 45 appearances so far and Andy Carroll has notched 10 goals in 50 games, while Jermain Defoe has hit the net 17 times in 40 outings. So, from this season's goalscoring statistics, the case is clear for Rooney to start.
He is also seen as England's talisman going forward - Roy Hodgson's one world-class striker, which the experienced coach acknowledges, as he has said: "Wayne is a quality player. I would suggest he is world-class. I am always wary of giving players epithets but he is a bit special."
Hodgson has already confirmed that Rooney will come straight back into the team following his two-match suspension. He believes his lack of game time, rather than being a hindrance, can in fact benefit the team.
"He is our real ace in the hole, because he is very fit and raring to go," said Hodgson. "If he can play like we know Wayne Rooney can, we're going to be a bit more difficult to beat. You can only benefit from having someone of his quality in your team."
Critics will point to the fact that Rooney has not scored at the last two major championships England have played in - the 2006 and 2010 World Cups - after notching four goals at the 2004 Euros.
But, just like his lack of game time, this statistic can also be turned into a positive. The England striker will be desperate to set the record straight after two failures.
Hodgson will take heart from the example of Theo Walcott so far at these championships. The Arsenal man, who was controversially taken to the 2006 World Cup but then missed out on the 2010 World Cup, scored and provided the winning-goal assist last Friday against Sweden as he made the most of his opportunity. Hodgson will be hoping Rooney can now have the same impact.
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Although Roy Hodgson has already announced to the world's media that the talismanic striker will definitely start against co-hosts Ukraine on Tuesday night, his decision could end up costing England a place in the quarter-finals.
The Three Lions need only a point to reach the last eight of the European Championship and they will have to overcome a number of obstacles at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.
Is this really the right time for Hodgson to let a player like Rooney, who has had problems with his self-control in the past, loose in what is sure to be a cauldron of an atmosphere where Ukraine know only a win would send them through at the expense of England?
And will the 26-year-old provide us with a classic 'Wazza' moment by losing the plot, just as he did at the 2006 World Cup by getting himself sent off against Portugal in the quarter-final and let us not forget the Euro 2012 qualifying game in Montenegro, which got him into this predicament in the first place?
Let us face it, Rooney is about to make his first start since playing for Manchester United five weeks ago, so he clearly will not be match-fit for the Three Lions in such a crucial clash and it is unlikely he will last 90 minutes.
So would it not be a better option for Hodgson to use him as an impact player, a bit like Theo Walcott against Sweden the other night?
And why bring him back when Hodgson has won three of his four matches and drawn the other after taking over the reins.
Indeed, apart from Rooney's brief second-half substitute appearance against Belgium at Wembley before Euro 2012, the former West Brom and Fulham boss has kept faith with pretty much the same squad.
It is likely Rooney will replace Andy Carroll up front and will play alongside his club team-mate, Danny Welbeck.
It seems extremely harsh on £35million Liverpool striker Carroll, who hit form after his late winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton and single-handedly battered the Chelsea backline - including John Terry - in defeat in the final.
His opening goal against Sweden was a classic centre-forward's goal, stretching every neck muscle to power home from club-mate Steven Gerrard's delivery.
Ukraine's central defenders Taras Mykhalyk and Yevhen Khacheridi are more likely to be worried by the physical presence and aerial threat of Carroll, rather than Rooney, who will sit deep and look to pull the strings.
And does Hodgson's decision to start with Rooney send out the right message to the rest of the squad in the fact that they are likely to be dropped as soon as England's great hope is available to start?