England vs. Ukraine: Picking Starting XI with Wayne Rooney

Tony MabertContributor IJune 19, 2012

England vs. Ukraine: Picking Starting XI with Wayne Rooney

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    Two games into England's Euro 2012 campaign and it's a case of so far, so good for manager Roy Hodgson.

    The gaffer has grabbed four points from a possible six in Group D thanks to his stubborn banks of four grinding out a 1-1 draw against France and then his resurrection of the 4-4-2 claiming a thrilling 3-2 win over Sweden.

    Hodgson's team selections and tactical plans have not exactly reinvented the wheel, but they have been simple and logical enough for the players to understand.

    With England needing just a point from their final group game against Ukraine on Tuesday to progress, here is how Hodgson could set his team up in Donetsk.

GK: Joe Hart

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    England’s No. 1 has conceded three goals in two matches at the tournament so far, though in truth he can only really take a slice of the blame for the first, Samir Nasri’s equaliser for France.

    Even if England had already secured their place in the quarterfinals, Roy Hodgson’s penchant for sticking with his first team and the prospect of avoiding Spain in the last eight are reason enough to make sure Rob Green and Jack Butland stay firmly on the bench

RB: Glen Johnson

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    The much-maligned Liverpool full-back has exceeded expectations so far in this tournament. That is not too difficult, given many pegged him as being the greatest liability in England's defence.

    But Johnson has had a decent tournament so far. He competed well against Franck Ribery in most of their duels in the France game and his own goal against Sweden was an unfortunate consequence of him diving in to block a goal-bound shot.

CB: Joleon Lescott

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    As impressive as the Manchester City defender has been over the past year, there is always the nagging sense that there is a mistake in him somewhere along the line.

    Lescott was partly to blame for the collective failure of England's defence which led to Sweden's two goals from set pieces.

CB: John Terry

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    Like Lescott, Terry is partially culpable for England conceding two soft goals in their last game that would have irritated his manager no end.

    Terry's self-belief will no doubt mean he shakes off such disappointments in no time, and he will be looking forward to facing his former Chelsea colleague, Andriy Shevchenko.

LB: Ashley Cole

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    England cap No. 97 for Cole, who continues to be his country's most consistent player.

    Against Ukraine, he will make his 21st appearance for England at a major tournament, eclipsing the previous mark set by David Beckham and Peter Shilton.

    The left-back stalwart is the final part of an England defence that is beginning to have a familiar feel about it.

RM: Theo Walcott

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    Theo Walcott's devastating impact off the bench against Sweden got every England fan on their feet last time out.

    In his half-hour he scored one goal and set up Danny Welbeck's winner, finally announcing his arrival internationally six years after his unused presence at a World Cup.

    Concerns over his hamstring have now been appeased, with the Arsenal winger deemed fit for action. If England feel they can afford to have two out-and-out wide men against Ukraine, then Walcott should get his first start of the tournament.

CM: Steven Gerrard

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    Much of Gerrard's international career has been characterised by him failing to replicate his club form for his country, but when he wears the captain's armband, he takes the responsibility seriously.

    Sat in a deeper role alongside Scott Parker, Gerrard has been a model of discipline and restraint as he has stuck to his more defensively-minded brief in Poland and Ukraine.

CM: Scott Parker

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    As with Gerrard, Hodgson has expressed his concerns about Parker playing a game every four days during this tournament, but so far he has held up well.

    The Tottenham midfielder has been as energetic as ever, and despite his physical game, he has yet to be booked in this tournament.

LM: Ashley Young

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    Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the tournament so far for England, Young has struggled to bring his scintillating pre-tournament form with him.

    Rooney's return means a move back out to the left wing for Young, and the presence of his Manchester United teammate may possibly coax some better performances out of him.

FW: Wayne Rooney

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    England's star man is fit and available. While there is a fair logic in questioning whether he should automatically walk straight back into a winning team, there seems little doubt that he will.

    Hodgson's ace in the hole will add some much-needed creativity to England's attack, although he must rein in his penchant for covering every blade of grass and stick to the areas he is told to operate in by his coach.

CF: Danny Welbeck

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    Liverpool striker Andy Carroll rightly drew praise for his impressive all-round display against Switzerland. He scored a great header, held the ball up well and did not neglect his defensive duties.

    However, Rooney's return means that someone has to drop out to make way for him, and it looks like Carroll will be that man.

    Welbeck is a much more mobile and versatile player, who also scored against Sweden with a lovely improvised backheel.

    His highly productive partnership with Rooney at club level—they scored 33 goals between them in 22 Premier League starts together last season—should see him keep his place.