Wayne Rooney Won't Take Starting Place in Brazil

Roy Hodgson has urged English football to be less “obsessed” with the performances of Wayne Rooney and has refused to guarantee the striker a place in his first-choice World Cup line-up.

The England manager, who flies with his squad to their pre-tournament base in Miami on Sunday, suggested that beyond his goalkeeper Joe Hart, back four and captain Steven Gerrard, there are five places up for grabs with Rooney not, therefore, an automatic choice.

The 28-year-old has often been England’s main hope going into major tournaments, only to struggle to deliver, and Hodgson is counselling against heaping further pressure on the striker.

“I think it’s a bit sad that the country is so Wayne Rooney obsessed,” Hodgson said. “I don’t think Wayne sets himself up to be anything other than a very, very important member of the squad, someone who does his best and tries his best at all times.

“Talk about combinations doesn’t interest me. All I want is for Wayne Rooney to play well and for Daniel Sturridge to play well and to score and create goals. That’s what we work hard to help them do as a team. But certainly we don’t have the same obsession with Wayne or Daniel. Obviously Daniel and Wayne would like to be the first two names on the list and to do that they’ll have to continue to do well.”

Hodgson said that he was pleased with his forward options after the 3-0 friendly victory against Peru on Friday, having decided on his first-choice goalkeeper and his back four – the same combination who played at Wembley. “Once you get past Steven Gerrard in the midfield, there’s five positions to fill and I think there’s a lot of options there.”

The manager admitted that he felt the pressure to play Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, saying they were “two young players who have captured the public’s imagination”, but again declined to offer guarantees. “I’ll have to make decisions on whether to play them or not – I feel that we’re getting stronger as a team and a group all the time.”

England face Ecuador in Miami on Wednesday, then Honduras in their final warm-up match on Saturday before flying to their World Cup base in Rio de Janeiro. There are no injury concerns for Hodgson, with Phil Jones having recovered from his shoulder problem. Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has also recovered from injury, and Rickie Lambert, who has completed his £4  million move to Liverpool from Southampton, are all expected to feature against Ecuador.

Lambert’s club colleague Adam Lallana will undergo a medical in Miami should Southampton accept a £25 million bid from Liverpool, who want a decision within 48 hours or they will turn to other targets.

Hodgson will submit his final 23-man squad list to Fifa on Monday, with John Stones and Jon Flanagan flying to Miami and then, hopefully, remaining with the England squad in Brazil to gain experience. They will not be allowed to play in the World Cup.

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