England goes into the final game of Group D tied at the top with France. If the Three Lions can manage a draw with host Ukraine, they will be through to the knockout stage.
Helping England reach that goal will be star forward Wayne Rooney. He will be returning from a two-game suspension and will deservedly march right back into the starting XI. However, that means that manager Roy Hodgson must decide who to drop from a lineup that was unexpectedly prolific against Sweden.
Andy Carroll seems the obvious choice, as he is a true No. 9 who slotted in behind Danny Welbeck for much of the Sweden game. But he scored a fantastic goal from the air, and given Ukraine’s weakness at the back, he may present more matchup challenges than Welbeck.
Welbeck, though, was extremely impressive in his own right. He scored a truly remarkable goal to give England the win against Sweden, and he has the club experience of playing with Rooney at Manchester United to support his case.
Playing Rooney with Welbeck seems to make the most sense. They complement each other well and Welbeck is more than capable of holding the ball up when Rooney drops deeper.
In addition, combining Welbeck with the quick Ashley Young makes England the most dangerous. Rooney, Welbeck and Young are versatile and fast, causing problems for a Ukrainian side that has been suspect at the back.
Yevhen Khacheridi and Yevgen Selin are physical, but have not demonstrated great quickness. Presumably, Welbeck would be more able to take advantage of that.
Theo Walcott might also be dangerous, but Hodgson understandably prefers James Milner’s defensive solidity.
Pairing Rooney with Welbeck allows England to be dangerous without sacrificing the quickness that makes their midfield most dangerous. Carroll could come on as early as halftime if Welbeck does not succeed, but giving Welbeck the start is the sound decision.