Rooney to play at Euro Championship after ban

Wayne Rooney is ready to play at the European Championship after

being sidelined with a two-match suspension.

The striker returns Tuesday against Ukraine, hoping to steer

England into the quarterfinals.

The Manchester United player missed the draw against France and

victory over Sweden in Group D. Rooney was banned for kicking

Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic in England’s last qualifier in

October.

Coach Roy Hodgson will make a change to the team that beat

Sweden 3-2 on Friday, dropping either goal scorer Danny Welbeck or

Andy Carroll.

”Rooney is a special player and it would be very difficult for

me quite frankly to leave him out of the team,” Hodgson said.

”I’m afraid that if you’re a member of a team that has someone

like Wayne Rooney sitting out with suspension, you probably expect

him to get back in the team when the suspension is served.”

And the coach quipped: ”If I did leave him out, all hell might

break loose in the dressing room.”

Even Welbeck seemed to accept sitting in favor of his more

experienced Manchester United teammate.

”Make no mistake, the whole team is happy that Wazza will be

available to play again,” he said. ”We all want to play, but it’s

only going to benefit us to have a player of his proven quality as

part of the plans going forward in this tournament.”

England could be relying on Rooney’s freshness and firepower in

front of goal to compensate for any repeat of the defensive lapses

that nearly handed Sweden the win Friday in Kiev.

”Hopefully, the addition of a player of Rooney’s class will

take some pressure of the defenders because he can change a game

off his own bat,” Hodgson said.

But is Rooney’s return being built up too much in the England

camp?

The 26-year-old forward hasn’t scored at a major tournament

since Euro 2004 – when he hit four goals as an 18-year-old. He

failed to find the net at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

Rooney has only scored three goals for his country since a poor

tournament in South Africa.

Hodgson remains adamant that Rooney can be England’s ”real ace

in the hole” having played less than 40 minutes of soccer since

United’s last match of the season a month ago – in a Euro 2012

warmup against Belgium.

”He is very fit and he’s raring to go,” Hodgson said.

The danger is if Rooney is too desperate to make an impact. Then

the hot-headed side of his character may emerge in the steaming

temperatures of Donetsk.

”He’ll want to make up for time he’s missed and make it up to

all the lads,” said winger Theo Walcott, who scored one and set up

another against Sweden. ”He is such a world-class player.”

Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris