Walcott boost for England

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iol spt june18 Walcott REUTERS England's hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarterfinals received a boost after winger Theo Walcott, right, was declared fit to face Ukraine in their final Group D game.

DONETSK, Ukraine – England's hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarterfinals received a boost Monday after winger Theo Walcott was declared fit to face Ukraine in their final Group D game.

Walcott, who produced a match-winning cameo from the substitutes bench in last Friday's 3-2 win over Sweden, had been a doubt for Tuesday's clash against the co-hosts after tweaking a hamstring on Sunday.

However England manager Roy Hodgson confirmed here Monday that the 23-year-old Arsenal star was fit to start if called upon.

“He's fit for the game. Luckily we don't have any injury concerns,” Hodgson told a press conference at the Donbass Arena.

Hodgson is mulling over whether to bring Walcott into his starting line-up, possibly in place of midfielder James Milner as England bid to secure the draw they need to reach the last eight.

Hodgson's other major selection dilemma concerns his strikers, where either Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll Ä who both scored in the win over Sweden Ä will have to make way for Wayne Rooney, available after serving a two-game ban.

The England manager admitted the performances of Welbeck and Carroll, who have scored three goals between them in the last three games, had given him a welcome headache.

“It's become a very difficult choice because both have done so well both in friendly matches before we came to the tournament, and the tournament itself,” Hodgson said.

“So they've given me the classic manager's headache but it's the headache we all want because it's a case of players who are in form and playing well and competing for a place.

“But I have made it clear that Wayne Rooney will start so the decision has to be made.”

In an unusual move, both England and Ukraine were prevented from training on the Donbass Arena pitch on Monday as officials repaired the playing surface after the deluge which battered Friday's match between France and the co-hosts.

England's players and staff were given the opportunity to inspect the surface and Hodgson said he was happy with what they found.

“The pitch is remarkably good considering how hard they had to work the other night to ensure the game went ahead,” he said.

“We were really quite surprised how good a condition the pitch was in.

“It was good for players to see with their own eyes that the field is almost as good as it was when we played here against France. – Sapa-AFP


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