Wayne Rooney has declared himself fit and impatient to get going ahead of two World Cup qualifiers that will determine England’s future.
The Manchester United striker picked up a late injury during Manchester United’s weekend win at Sunderland but insists—per Sky Sports—he will be available for Friday’s crunch clash with Montenegro:
"I've got a little knock but I'll be fine for England," Rooney said. "I can't wait to be honest. As soon as the Sunderland game had finished, I started to think about England."
Rooney completed the 90 minutes in the 2-1 win at Sunderland but, after a week in which he missed the Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk due to a shin complaint, Roy Hodgson will have been waiting anxiously for news on the striker.
England know they must win both their remaining qualifiers, against Montenegro and Poland, to guarantee their place at the summer World Cup in Brazil.
Anything less presents the risk of dropping into the playoffs, where a host of tricky ties would await the Three Lions.
Rooney is extremely confident that scenario will not occur, per Sky Sports. England have their qualification hopes in their own hands and, crucially, will be backed by home support at Wembley:
We're going to do it. We're going to get to the World Cup. I'm confident, we're confident, but you always have to be sure you're not over-confident. These are going to be two tough games for us, but we're good enough to do it.
They are going to be two tough games, though, because Montenegro and Poland are good sides and their best qualities are on the counter attack.
Whether Rooney’s confidence is based on solid foundations is rather questionable.
England have a totally out-of-form keeper in Joe Hart, after high-profile errors against Cardiff, Aston Villa and Bayern Munich this season, while Ashley Cole is a fitness doubt due to a rib problems, per BBC Sport.
First-choice right-back Glen Johnson is also missing, as is his right-flank partner Theo Walcott. Additionally, Jack Wilshere was off his game in the last qualifier against Ukraine and endured a shocking 45 minutes at West Brom on Sunday.
However, there are plenty of positives too for England. Wilshere, for one, atoned for his awful start to Arsenal’s draw by netting an equaliser—his first league goal for nearly three years.
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Up front England have a potentially lethal strike partnership in Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, the latter of whom cannot stop scoring for Liverpool and is the league’s top marksman.
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick all provide vast experience from the middle of the park, if selected, so England will expect to dominate the midfield areas—knowing they have plenty of goals up front.
The key will be how they defend against a dangerous Montenegro attack. Mirko Vucinic is one of the cleverest strikers on the Continent and will shoot on sight.
The Juventus striker has scored 15 times in 36 international outings, although he may not feature at Wembley due a thigh problem that kept him out of Juve’s weekend win over AC Milan.
Stevan Jovetic, his natural partner, is also struggling after a minor problem saw him miss Manchester City’s 3-1 triumph over Everton. Hodgson expects both to play, per Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph:
I get reports about things and people telling me things that should work positively but it doesn’t always work that way so I’ll wait until Friday night to get the team sheet before I believe Vucinic and Jovetic [are out].
Certainly it would be a major boost to England if either player were missing for a Montenegro side that boasts little other threat.
Rooney's declaration of full fitness ensures England have their star man available, so there will be no excuses if three points are not delivered on Friday ahead of the visit of Poland to the capital.