Euro 2012 Betting: Rooney for real
Rooney will have been training hard since he joined up with England and will be sharp but his legs will have far less miles in them
England are improving under Roy Hodgson and Lee Dixon has little doubt that the return of the very fresh Wayne Rooney will be the catalyst for a relatively comfortable win when they meet Ukraine in their next Euro 2012 match-up.
The biggest positive from the Sweden match was obviously the result. Over the course of a long season a manager will look at the performances as much as the results because you can't keep on getting results over the course of nine or 10 months without playing well. But in a tournament like this, one bad result, however well you played, is normally enough to send you home. So England will take those three points and not worry too much about how they got them.
The other big positive from the match was the spirit the England players showed. At 2-1 down they were going out. And they weren't passing the ball that well and having long spells of pressure so a comeback looked pretty unlikely. But they showed belief, togetherness and fighting spirit and in the end were probably just about good value for the win.
On the downside, England defended really poorly, especially for the second goal. You can't leave a notoriously good header of the ball like Olof Mellberg unmarked in the box like that and there will have been an inquiry regarding who was meant to be picking him up. England got away with one there but they'll have to make sure it doesn't happen again.
I don't think there's a single England fan who doesn't think Wayne Rooney should come straight into the team after his suspension. He made a mistake, he served his time and he's now ready and raring to go. Andy Carroll scored a super goal against Sweden and made a nuisance of himself but if it's a straight choice between him and Danny Welbeck (which it is) for who makes way, it's got to be Carroll. Not only do Rooney and Welbeck know each other's game well from playing together at Manchester United but I've been impressed with his movement and energy so far this tournament. Hes' always prepared to make runs into space even when he doesn't get given the ball much. And he's not just a hard-working forward; he won England the game with a clever finish against Sweden and we saw him score all manner of goals for United this campaign. England obviously lose Carroll's greater aerial threat if he doesn't figure but I think partnering the two United men together is the right thing to do.
I've never been in a dressing room where the manager has told the players they're playing for a draw. A point is of course all England need from this match but if you go out with that mindset you can become overly negative and confused with your approach to the game. The 'a draw will do us fine' mentality certainly isn't the one that Roy Hodgson will be trying to get through to his players. They'll go out with a gameplan to try to win the game. But if it's a draw with ten minutes to go then England won't be going for broke to try to find a winner either. That's just common sense.
I think England will win this match as it happens. Odds of (2.2) may not be everyone's idea of a good price on a team that doesn't actually need to win but let's remember the prize on offer if England do win. If France fail to win and England do, they'll top the group. The Three Lions also top the group if both win and England end up with a better goal average. And we all know what the prize is if they do top the group: they avoid the winner of Group B, who in all likelihood will be Spain. And I think England can win without conceding this time.
Andryi Shevchenko is the only reason why Ukraine have something to play for, with his two goals against Sweden absolutely priceless. But he's no spring chicken anymore and even without mentioning the knock he's carrying, three matches in the space of 12 days is extremely tiring for anyone. I think Andryi Voronin is a good player but I don't see that he's going to give this England defence too torrid a time. Assuming England defend better from set pieces I see no reason why they can't finally keep a clean sheet so 1-0 (9.4) and 2-0 (12.5) are my ideas of a scoreline.
Football isn't always such a romantic game. I have the cuts, bruises and scars to show it and my family can vouch for the fact that not every Saturday night throughout my career was a cheery one. it certainly wasn't when my team got beat earlier in the day. But sometimes football does have these storylines that would make for a good film. At a tournament I actually think it's harder on a squad player who knows he's very unlikely to get a game than it is on someone like Wayne Rooney, who was suspended. It's easier to know you're definitely not going to play but that you definitely will when you're available again. The other advantage he has of course is that he'll be fresher than anyone else. He will have been training hard since he joined up with England and will be sharp but his legs will have far less miles in them. He's a must to score at anytime @(2.9).
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