Wayne Rooney is set to be restored to a central attacking position behind Daniel Sturridge for England’s critical World Cup group game against Uruguay on Thursday as Roy Hodgson seeks to extract greater involvement from his side’s leading scorer.
The Manchester United striker was a playmaker in the middle of an attacking trident, operating behind a lone forward, throughout the training session at their base in Urca on Tuesday, with Raheem Sterling often on the right and Danny Welbeck on the left.
That represents a tweak from Saturday’s defeat by Italy, when Rooney started each half on one of the flanks and operated centrally only after Sturridge departed late on, and indicates how Hodgson will approach the game in São Paulo.
Rooney, who earned his 93rd cap against the Azzurri, filled the same No10 role when England’s alternative trio of attackers worked together, with James Milner on the right, Adam Lallana on the left and Rickie Lambert utilised as the most advanced striker.
The session in Rio was of high intensity, with the squad regularly split up to undertake their small-sided matches as they worked on shape and pattern with Uruguay in mind, with all 22 available players spending around 90 minutes on the training pitch. Rooney was among the last to depart.
The forward, who has 39 international goals, remains desperate to make a positive impression having been frustrated in Germany eight years ago and South Africa in 2010, yet he mustered only two touches in Italy’s penalty area at the weekend and did not have a shot on target. He opted to do extra work on Monday, practising his shooting and passing, while those other starters from the loss in Manaus enjoyed a lighter session.
“I said from the start I want to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready for these World Cup games and as part of that, I was doing extra training a week before the squad joined up,” Rooney said on his Facebook page. “That’s exactly what I did [on Monday], my own extra training, because that’s what I wanted to do.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of some involvement, even on the bench, in São Paulo appear slim after he continued to train apart from the main group as he attempts to recover from medial ligament damage sustained in the pre-tournament friendly against Ecuador. The Arsenal midfielder was not involved in any of the small-sided games but did undertake his own shooting drills.
Once the main session was complete the players repeated last week’s penalty shootout practice, with no goalkeeper, picking out specific targets in the goal. Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Leighton Baines and Lambert took the bulk of the spot-kicks, though England’s target at present remains emerging from Group D and into the knockout phase.