‘Rooney can handle the pressure’

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Copy of iol spt pic Wayne Rooney Getty Images England boss Roy Hodgson says Wayne Rooney can handle the intense speculation over his starting spot against Uruguay. Photo:Richard Heathcote

Sao Paulo - England boss Roy Hodgson says Wayne Rooney can handle the intense speculation over his starting spot ahead of Thursday's crunch World Cup fixture with Uruguay.

Pressure has built on Rooney after a mixed display in last week's 2-1 loss to Italy, which has left England in danger of departing Brazil early.

But Hodgson, in an assessment which indicated Rooney will keep his place in the team, said the Manchester United striker accepted high expectations were part of being a senior player.

“As far as I'm concerned, I was more than satisfied with Rooney's performance against Italy,” said Hodgson, pointing to statistics which showed he ran further and had more sprints than any other England player.

“But I'm afraid that Wayne, alongside Steven (Gerrard) and Frank Lampard, they are the three players with the World Cup and European experience.

“I think everyone understands that you can't expect the younger players who are just starting off to shoulder a heavy part of the burden,” Hodgson added on Wednesday.

“The good thing is that Wayne is more than happy with that. And if he plays tomorrow [Thursday] night I'm sure that you'll see that in his performance.”

Rooney, with 93 caps and 39 goals for England, has yet to score at a World Cup and he cut a frustrated figure by the end of Saturday's defeat.

This week Rooney, who was played out of position on the left, hit out at media reports that said he was facing the axe because he was spotted training with England's reserves.

Hodgson said he was confident his players had got over the Italy loss although he expected Uruguay, with Liverpool's Luis Suarez fit again, to have their “big guns blazing”.

But his captain, Gerrard, said England's pacy, youthful attack should pose problems in cool Sao Paulo to the 2010 semi-finalists, who lost 3-1 to Costa Rica last week.

“I certainly have no doubt going into this game that we're going to create Uruguay big problems going forward. We've got a lot of pace, a lot of ability,” said Gerrard.

“I think you will see another good attacking England performance, and that's the reason I believe the key to this game is if we can get our defensive side right, I believe we'll get a win.”

Gerrard said he had drilled into England's younger players the lessons of 2006 and 2010, when he experienced the pain of disappointing World Cup campaigns.

“I've spoken to the group during the week to reiterate the message of the pain of going out of World Cups,” he said.

“It's something that we don't want. We want to perform and get three points tomorrow [Thursday] and we want to stay here as long as possible.

“I'm sure all the young lads and everyone in the squad is aware how difficult a summer it's going to be if we fail tomorrow [Thursday].”

Gerrard said he would spend Wednesday night doing final preparations on his iPad - but he will not be contacting close friend and club team-mate Suarez before the game.

“I'm very good friends with Luis, we have had some banter, some conversations in the build-up to this game, but there'll be no communication tomorrow [Thursday],” Gerrard said.

“Luis Suarez is a genius, I've said it many, many times. He's a wonderful player,” he added. “I think it's going to be a boost for the Uruguay players and their supporters to have him back.”

Sapa-AFP



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