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England turn to Rooney for final push
Trevor Huggins |
June 20, 2004 18:50 IST
England will be counting on record-breaking teenager Wayne Rooney to fire them into the Euro 2004 quarter-finals when they face Croatia on Monday.
England return to the scene of their nightmarish start to the tournament needing only a draw to go through, while Otto Baric's side must win if they are to qualify from Group B.
England were leading the holders and group favourites France 1-0 in stoppage time at the Luz stadium last Sunday before Zinedine Zidane struck twice for an astounding 2-1 victory.
Scarred by the defeat, Sven-Goran Eriksson's side followed up with a nervy 3-0 win over 10-man Switzerland in which Rooney became the youngest ever scorer at a European championship.
With Michael Owen firing blanks in Portugal, England need his 18-year-old strike partner to rise to the occasion again and avoid another yellow card that would rule him out of the quarter-finals.
"As a manager, I can't think about leaving him out and hoping we can win the game anyway," Eriksson said. "He has to play against Croatia and that's it."
The two strikers will be supported in midfield by Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who scored his first goal for England in a 3-1 friendly win over Croatia last August.
Central defender Sol Campbell has the formidable task of subduing Croatia striker Dado Prso, who hit four in Monaco's memorable 8-3 win over Deportivo Coruna in last season's run to the Champions League final.
England will underestimate Croatia at their peril after Prso was again on target in their highly impressive 2-2 draw with France on Thursday following an ugly 0-0 draw with the Swiss.
"Six months ago we did not have the self confidence to beat England and maybe were a bit scared of them but not now," Baric said on Friday.
"I trust my players and I believe they will show what they can do in this next game as we did against France."
Bayern Munich's Robert Kovac provides experience at the back, where he will be joined by skipper Boris Zivkovic, who missed the draw against France with a knee problem.
Captain David Beckham knows England cannot afford to be complacent. They needed only a draw with Romania in their last group game at Euro 2000 to reach the quarter-finals but lost 3-2 after conceding a late penalty.
"They were bad memories," Beckham said. "We can't let it happen again."
Croatia: 12-Tomislav Butina; 13-Dario Simic, 21-Robert Kovac, 6-Boris Zivkovic, 5-Igor Tudor; 22-Nenad Bjelica, 20-Giovanni Rosso, 10-Niko Kovac, 7-Milan Rapaic; 9-Dado Prso, 11-Tomislav Sokota
England: 1-David James; 2-Gary Neville, 5-John Terry, 6-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-David Beckham , 11-Frank Lampard, 4-Steven Gerrard, 8-Paul Scholes; 9-Wayne Rooney, 10-Michael Owen
Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
Linesmen: Marco Ivaldi (Italy), Narciso Pisacreta (Italy)
Fourth official: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)