The Sports Matrix: Wednesday 13 June 2012


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The Independent Online

Hodgson confirms doubts over fitness of midfielders

Roy Hodgson has admitted that the fitness of central midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker was "the big question", as England try to manage the pair through the tournament.

Parker joined the England squad with an Achilles injury while Gerrard struggled last season. Parker admitted that the pair would "just have to keep going", in what he described as "a very intense tournament [with] conditions that are very difficult."

Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones, who is more of a defender, are the only real alternatives in midfield, with Jack Wilshere, Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard all out injured.

Hodgson, pictured, revealed yesterday that he was waiting until the return of Wayne Rooney from suspension in England's third game, against Ukraine in Donetsk next Tuesday evening. "Our real ace in the hole, I think, should be Rooney, because he is very fit and raring to go," said Hodgson. "If he can play like Wayne Rooney, we're going to be a bit more difficult to beat, because you can only benefit from someone of his quality in your team."

Van Bommel: Last chance for Dutch

Netherlands captain Mark van Bommel has told his players the importance of victory ahead of tonight's crucial Group B game with Germany: "We have to win, there is no other way round it. For this golden generation, it is their last chance to come away with a trophy." MORE

Equaliser sustains Polish hopes

An excellent strike from Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski held Russia to a 1-1 draw last night, improving the co-hosts' hopes of emerging from Group A. Alan Dzagoev had put Russia ahead before the equaliser. If Poland beat Czech Republic they should progress. MORE

Early Czech blitz sinks Greece

Greece will need to beat Russia to reach the quarter-finals after two early goals condemned them to a 2-1 defeat to Czech Republic last night. Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar put the Czechs ahead within six minutes, and Theofanis Gekas' goal could not save a point for Greece. MORE

Johnson afflicted by infected toe

England right-back Glen Johnson has admitted that he is playing with a toe infection and has resumed antibiotics for the pain. "It's still there but it's getting better," Johnson said. "We're in a European Championship. I'm not going to let my little toe stop me." MORE

Britain's athletes set for rich summer

A leading sports statistician believes Great Britain are set for a successful Games. "Looking at the UK lists now, they're remarkable," Stan Greenberg said. "They're better than at any other time in history at this time of the year." MORE

England seek to add impetus to trip

Assistant coach Simon Hardy has called on England's players to use today's warm-up with the South African Barbarians to give the tour some impetus. "We have to get some momentum into this trip," he said. "You do that by winning games." MORE

Flower: KP may regret retiring

Andy Flower hopes Kevin Piet-ersen will not regret retiring from limited-overs cricket. "Looking back he might think 'I wish I'd taken part in more World Cups'," the England coach said. "I think it's sad he won't get those opportunities any more." MORE

Baker excited for Tsonga challenge

World No 203 Jamie Baker will play No 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Queen's today, after beating Oliver Golding 7-6, 6-3. "I've just got to enjoy the match," Baker said. "I've never played somebody ranked as highly in a competitive match." MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

Everyone knows that Wayne Rooney at his best is crucial to England but when did we last see that? His return to the team against Ukraine should not be triumphant and inevitable. MORE