Despite being captain of the English national team Wayne Rooney will not play against Spain in Alicante on Friday but will play against France at Wembley next Tuesday.
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Rooney, 30, became the all-time leading goalscorer for the Three Lions last month as he has 50 goals in 107 appearances but manager Roy Hodgson is ready to give players like Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy a chance to step up.
However, the Manchester United forward has never had more competition to keep his starting spot and the Liverpudlian knows it.
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Speaking ahead of the friendly game against the Spanish national team, Rooney told reporters that his nation now possesses “the best group of strikers since I’ve been involved in the squad” and many of them are still out injured.
“If the manager needs to have a look to see what he can do at international level, you have to understand that,” Rooney said. “It’s a huge challenge to keep your place in the team and that’s what I want to do. I want to prove myself. I feel that since Roy has been in charge, my international form has been great, I have scored a lot of goals and I hope that will continue.
“As a footballer you want to play. But then I have to understand I have played a lot of games for England and players like Jamie Vardy have come in and done well. It’s certainly the best group of strikers since I’ve been involved in the squad. We’ve also got players such as Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Theo Walcott out injured so it’s a huge array of talent and great for the country. In previous years we’ve gone into tournaments and haven’t had that many match-winners in the squad. Now we’ve got quite a few match-winners, which can only benefit us as a team.”
When you look at the current pool of English strikers, it’s tough to argue with Rooney.
In this squad you have Rooney, Kane and Vardy as forward options with Ross Barkley pegged to play in an advanced role against Spain. With wingers Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (currently injured) around, England have options out wide too, plus the pile of injured strikers also hammers home the strength in-depth they possess.
Danny Ings. Theo Walcott. Daniel Sturridge. Danny Welbeck; those are four strikers who are currently injured plus the likes of Rickie Lambert, Saido Berahino, Andy Carroll, Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are on the outside looking in.
After 10-straight wins in EURO 2016 qualifying, England will head into two high-profile friendlies against Spain and France in the next few days with plenty of confidence. Between now and next summer’s tournament in France they also have plenty of options to try out as Rooney tries to hold down his starting role despite a steady start (seven goals in 18 games) in front of goal to start the season for club and country where much has been made about his best position. No matter what, for what he has achieved over the past decade Rooney deserves to start for England but he should start deeper and not as a No. 9.
Right now, I’d say England’s best forward line (in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation) would see Kane start up front on his own with Rooney just behind him and Sterling and Sturridge out wide. If all of those players stay fit, it would take a lot for an opponent to stop those four.