Wayne Rooney: Star Striker Must Continue to Power Three Lions Attack
There was major trouble for England to start Euro 2012 seeing as how their star player, Wayne Rooney, was suspended for the first two matches of group play. But now that Rooney is back, he must be the driving force of the Three Lions' offensive attack.
Rooney showed just how important he truly is to this team after England's win over Ukraine. Rooney netted the first and only goal of the match that guaranteed the Three Lions' entrance into the quarterfinals against Italy.
However, this Italian squad is far superior to the Ukranian team, and the English know it.
Italy's defense is stingy, and without a ton of scoring in group play, its the reason the Azzurri are in the quarterfinals to begin with. Having allowed only two goals, Italy comes into this match sporting the second-best defense in the tourney in regards to total goals allowed.
What's more impressive about Italy's defense is the fact that they held a potent Spain squad to just one goal in their opening match tie.
On the surface, it's obvious that Rooney's ability to put the ball in the net is the most important thing he can do, but there are other ways Rooney can help his team.
First and foremost, the focus of the Italian defense will be to stop Rooney from putting the ball in the net. He will no doubt draw extra attention from defenders at all times and that should open up the field for the rest of England's offense.
With little to no attention on the rest of the Three Lions' offensive threats, players like Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck will have much more room to operate and could end up being the ones who put the ball in the net instead of Rooney.
Look for Theo Walcott to be substituted into this match late, much like coach Roy Hodgson has done the entire tournament. Walcott should look to feed off of Rooney, and the 23-year-old will get his chances to score with a pair of fresh legs.
That could also work to Rooney's advantage as well. Walcott's entrance into the game won't go unnoticed, and if he can manage to be a step quicker than his tired opponents, that should finally open things up for Rooney. In turn, Wazza will get some opportunities late in the match to put England over the top.
Rooney's importance to England's success should never be in doubt. He is still their best player by far and his contributions, whether scoring or otherwise, will be vital to the Three Lions winning their match against a difficult opponent in the Azzurri.
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