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'Special' Wayne Rooney set for Ukraine test: Hodgson

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Rooney returns for crucial Ukraine clash
Donetsk, Jun 17: England manager Roy Hodgson said that striker Wayne Rooney will start ahead of their critical Group D clash against Ukraine at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk.

The new England manager is expected to pair Rooney alongside Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck, who scored the winner against Sweden, to boost their chances of qualifying to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll is expected to be sidelined as Hodgson could opt for the Manchester United attacking trio of Rooney, Welbeck and Ashley Young. But Hodgson suggested he would use Welbeck 'more sparingly' in the future indicating that the 21-year-old striker is yet to be England's first choice.

"Wayne's a quality player, a world-class player," he said. "His ability is a bit special. You're lucky if you're a manager of a national team to have players of his quality available. Hopefully, he'll make life that bit easier for us going into the next game when we need another result," Hodgson was quoted as saying in The Guardian.

Rooney's last appearance was in the win against Belgium in which he played for 36 minutes. This being his only game-time since the end of the Premier League season, raised doubts over the strikers fitness. But Hodgson described Rooney as a top player and said the 26-year old striker is well aware of his expectations.

"This is part of being a top, top player in an important national team. If you are Sweden it's Ibrahimovic, if it's Ukraine I'm sure it's Shevchenko. If it's England it's about Rooney and Gerrard and if it's France it's about Ribery and Nasri. You trust these players who have put up with this kind of pressure in their lives for a long time, and that they know how to deal with it", Hodgson said.

Hodgson opted for a more attacking formation against the Swedes, with strikers Welbeck and Carroll upfront. But England only need a draw against the co-hosts Ukraine to secure a quarter-final berth.

Arsenal Winger Theo Walcott, who scored the equaliser and provided the assist for the match-winning goal, could possibly replace James Milner on the right channel.

Meanwhile, captain Steven Gerrard has been an inspiration for England after delivering two inch-perfect crosses, the first for Joleon Lescott's opening goal in the draw against France while the second to Liverpool team-mate Carroll to head in his first competitive goal for the Lions.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 14:29 [IST]
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