Hodgson admits team miss Rooney's spark as they prepare to face Sweden


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The Independent Online

Roy Hodgson admitted last night that the searing heat of Ukraine will have taken its toll on England's players by the time they play the co-hosts on home turf there next Tuesday.

The training session Hodgson led here yesterday in heavy rain and temperatures a full 11C lower than that being experienced in Donetsk, where England may need at least a point next Tuesday, revealed a manager unable to get his weary, injury-hit senior players on a pitch ahead of tomorrow's match with Sweden in Kiev. Though all players except the virus-hit Martin Kelly initially appeared for the cameras, the entire probable first XI for the Sweden match promptly disappeared into the Hutnik Stadium after the media had been cleared. Hodgson was then left to run the session as best he could with the skeleton staff of players at his disposal.

Hodgson, who is likely to stick with Monday's starting XI in Kiev, defended the heavy dependence on Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker by declaring his squad was the third youngest in the tournament. But he added: "When you come to the third game [against Ukraine] we are going to be careful with all the players, not just Steven and Scott, because three games in the Ukraine heat takes it out of everybody."

Hodgson also admitted to the BBC that Ukraine's 2-1 win over Sweden was a disappointing result for England because it kept the hosts' qualification hopes looking good before they meet England. "It wasn't the result that we wanted. I suppose the result we wanted was a draw because that keeps things tight." Hodgson suggested that to stay in the tournament Ukraine may need a win on Tuesday, though not if they beat France tomorrow.

Hodgson admitted England "miss" the spark of Wayne Rooney, who has been given a dramatic shaved-sides haircut by a barber who set up in Ashley Young's room at the squad hotel.

"When we talk about Sweden we talk a lot about [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and how important he is for them," Hodgson said. "How he can take a game, his individual ability – he is a world-class player.

"We have one of those in our squad and his name is Wayne Rooney. He is a world-class player and no doubt when he gets himself on to the field we will be a much stronger, potent, attacking force than we are when he is not playing.

Wayne Rooney is a world-class player and we will be a more potent force when he returns to the side