Rooney to return for Ukraine game
Roy Hodgson hailed his strikers for their goalscoring efforts in England’s thrilling 3-2 win over Sweden – but confirmed Wayne Rooney will return for the Euro 2012 qualification decider with co-hosts Ukraine on Tuesday.
Hodgson’s bold decision to select Andy Carroll paid off when the Liverpool man put England ahead with a first-half header.
Then Danny Welbeck secured a famous win when he flicked home Theo Walcott’s cross 12 minutes from time.
The result means a draw will do in Donetsk.
However, any thought that Rooney might have a job getting his place back after serving his two-match suspension was quickly dispelled.
"I welcome those kind of selection problems," said Hodgson.
"I was really pleased with the performance of the front players.
"But Wayne Rooney is a special player and, frankly, it will be hard to leave him out.
"I’m afraid you expect him to get back into the team when the suspension is served."
The statement merely underlined what a massive role Rooney is being afforded in the Hodgson era.
He must have gone through every emotion in the stands tonight though, as England established a winning position, tossed away the initiative with some chronic defending, and finally claimed a vital three points thanks to Hodgson’s match-changing introduction of Theo Walcott.
"Theo’s contribution was enormous," said Hodgson.
"To come on as a sub, score and set up the winner means he’ll be very happy."
Two goals at the start of the second half from Olof Mellberg turned the game on its head, as well as earning the former Aston Villa defender a man-of-the-match award he did not want.
"It doesn’t mean a lot," he said.
"It feels a little bit strange to win something when you lose a match and go out of a tournament."
The reason was Walcott, who rifled home the equaliser three minutes after his introduction with a shot that startled Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson, leaving the former Manchester City man completely wrong-footed.
Then it was Walcott who surged into the box, before clipping a cross to the near-post, which Welbeck turned home with a magnificent airborne back-heel.
"It was a good move," said Hodgson.
"Theo was able to skip away from the full-back and showed a lot of composure to find Danny at the near post.
"He timed his run very well and it was a very clever finish with the pirouette past the goalkeeper who thought he was going to toe it towards the near post.
"It was a great goal to win the game."
Now, it seems Welbeck and Carroll will battle it out to partner Rooney as England look for the point required in the most partisan of atmospheres on Tuesday.
Walcott will also come into contention after his brilliant cameo, that included his first England goal since that famous hat-trick against Croatia almost four years ago.
"Of course I believe in him," said Hodgson.
"He’s a good player with good qualities. That’s why I selected him in my 23.
"I have only worked with these guys for a month and am still learning what they’re really good at, and what areas we can find improvement.
"But I was delighted with his performance tonight."