DONETSK, Ukraine – England captain Steven Gerrard warned that Wayne Rooney was itching to make his Euro 2012 debut here Monday ahead of his side's crucial Group D phase finale against Ukraine.
Rooney returns from a two-match suspension at the Donbass Arena on Tuesday as England seek the draw they need which will guarantee a quarter-final berth as well as the elimination of the co-hosts.
“Everyone knows what Wayne Rooney's all about, he certainly makes us a lot more threatening going forward, Gerrard said.
“He's a world class player. I'm quite close to him and I can see it in his eyes that he's itching to get out there and perform.”
Gerrard discounted the suggestion that Rooney's eagerness to impress could make him a liability if his fiery temperament got the better of him as it did when he was sent off against Montenegro in qualifying last October.
“I'm not going to tell Wayne Rooney not to be fired up about this game,” Gerrard said. “That's what Wayne Rooney's all about Ä
pressing, being aggressive in the right way, being a top player.
“That's the reason he's world class. Obviously we need him on the pitch. He's aware of that. He regrets his reaction last year. I'm sure he'll behave himself well and put up a good performance for the team.”
Manager Roy Hodgson, who has already vowed to start Rooney in place of either Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck, acknowledged that the Manchester United star would be advised against trying to do too much too soon in Tuesday's game.
“It's a good point to make and I think it won't just be myself making that point,” Hodgson said. “I'm sure Steven and other players will remind him that what we require is a good team performance and we want him to help us be a better team and win a game of football.
“I've been very impressed with the way he's gone about his work in training sessions and gone about his work talking to some of the younger players.
“I don't have any fears in that respect – he knows how important the occasion is, not only for himself and for his team-mates.”
Hodgson is also confident Rooney will be able to recover his match fitness quickly despite not playing a game since the end of the Premier League season.
“He's fully fit and every bit as sharp as he was when he finished his last game for Manchester United,” Hodgson said.
Having entered the tournament with expectations at an all-time low, the mood in the England camp has improved since the start of Euro 2012 following a solid draw with France and a vibrant attacking display against Sweden.
But even with Rooney voicing the belief at the weekend that England had the talent to win the tournament, Hodgson was relaxed about expectations of his team suddenly escalating.
“I think you play football at international level to try and get people to get carried away,” Hodgson said.
“Dreaming is what football is about; expectations are always what international football is about, so we've got to be happy that the expectation is increased and people are thinking we can go further than people thought before the tournament started.
“But that doesn't mean we can guarantee success.” – Sapa-AFP