England

Rooney backs England to impress

Wayne Rooney has backed England's young stars to impress.
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Wayne Rooney insists England have the potential to perform well at the World Cup - provided they can finish the job and qualify on Tuesday night.

After a nervy first half, England strolled to a relatively comfortable 4-1 win over Montenegro on Friday.

The task that now lies in front of the Three Lions is a simple one - win against Poland next week and qualification is assured.

If England get to the finals, there are few people who actually believe they can reach the latter stages.

FA chairman Greg Dyke has dismissed the idea that England could win the competition, and he has also highlighted his concerns over the dwindling number of home-grown players getting regular first-team football.

But after watching 22-year-old Andros Townsend make a stunning debut at Wembley, Rooney is full of optimism.

"We have to reach the finals first, but I am sure once we do that the manager will have a few games to prepare for the tournament," the Manchester United striker said.

"We have got some very exciting players, young exciting players.

"I think all the talk about 'there's not enough good English players' - well, we have got six, seven or eight young players.

"Andros did great, he's an exciting player with a great future and then you have (Danny) Welbeck, (Daniel) Sturridge, (Phil) Jones, (Chris) Smalling, (Jack) Wilshere, (Alex) Oxlade-Chamberlain, (Theo) Walcott - the players we have got there, there's some talent.

"So, we are happy with the squad we have got and are looking forward to the future."

Confidence is something that Rooney clearly does not lack at the moment.

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The 27-year-old has had a roller coaster of a year so far, falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson after being played out of position and then appearing to agitate for a move away from Old Trafford.

Rooney eventually agreed to stay at the Premier League champions and he has started to hit top form again despite a spell on the sidelines that came when he suffered a nasty cut to his forehead in training.

Rooney, who now wears a protective band to cover the visible scar left by Phil Jones' studs, has scored six in 10 for club and country this term.

His strike against Montenegro made him England's all-time top scorer in competitive matches, knocking Michael Owen off his perch.

Surprisingly, Rooney has never scored for England in two World Cup campaigns and that is something he wants to put right next summer.

"It was a vital goal and I'm sure Michael won't be too pleased," Rooney said with a smile.

"It would be great to try and get a goal to get us there (on Tuesday) and then obviously score goals in the World Cup because I've not done that yet."

Rooney's calmly-converted finish was his 37th goal for England, putting him just 12 behind Sir Bobby Charlton in the nation's all-time top scorers' list.

He could have had another had he not selflessly allowed Daniel Sturridge to convert an injury-time penalty to round off the win against the Montenegrins.

It would have been hard to imagine Rooney doing such a thing a few years ago, but he was happy to share the goals around.

"I was going to take it and then I asked (Sturridge) if he wanted to take it," the former Everton man said.

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"It was good for him, it's good for the team and it shows that the team spirit within the squad is great.

"Daniel hasn't played that many games for England; for him to get another goal will give him a boost. Hopefully he will get another one on Tuesday."

With Ukraine playing San Marino on Tuesday, England must beat Poland to be sure of their place in the finals, and Rooney insists the squad must not believe the job is done despite Friday's win.

"It's a massive game," Rooney added.

"Poland are probably a better team at the moment than Montenegro.

"I think they are much more dangerous on the counter-attacks and we will have to prepare well for that.

"But if we perform like we did against Montenegro then we will be okay."

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