Cole can fill creative gap left by loss of talisman

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The Independent Football

A more pragmatic view of a World Cup without Wayne Rooney began to emerge from within the England camp yesterday, at least from Joe Cole, who declared himself ready to fill the creative void left by the Manchester United striker and England able to succeed in Germany despite the loss of their 20-year-old talisman.

The Chelsea midfielder cut through the five-day mourning period for Rooney to counter the argument that Sven Goran Eriksson and his players not only lost their finest asset to a shattered metatarsal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but any hope they entertained of overcoming Brazil, Argentina, Germany et al this summer. Though Cole admitted Rooney's international colleagues are "in the dark" over the extent of the injury, he issued a timely reminder that life goes on and that England will be equipped to impress even in the worst case scenario of the forward missing the entire tournament.

"It is bad luck because he is such an important player for us and we don't know whether he will be ready or not," Cole said. "But either way, with the management we have got, we will be prepared for the World Cup and we will do ourselves justice."

Cole is a leading candidate to replace Rooney in a more central role in Germany although, should he be asked by Eriksson to provide support and ingenuity behind a lone striker, the departure from his usual berth in the England midfield would reopen the hole on the team's left flank.

With his stunning goal against Manchester United at the weekend, when he spun away from Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Mikaël Silvestre before beating Edwin van der Sar effectively to seal Chelsea's second successive title, the 24-year-old demonstrated that he has acquired the strength and finishing required to operate in attack.

"I would be honoured to step into Wayne's shoes," he added. " I would play anywhere the manager wants me to play. If he wants me to play that role for England then I will do it, it is no problem. I have played in most positions before and when you play for England you cannot pick and choose. I am a different sort of player to Wayne. He is a great player, but I would give it a go and do my best."

Cole believes his Chelsea colleague Paulo Ferreira should not be blamed for Rooney's injury.

"It was not Paulo's fault," he said. "He said he hardly touched him, but he's upset that Wayne is injured. I don't think anyone blames Paulo."

* The Brazil coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, confidently named his starting line-up yesterday for his team's opening World Cup match against Croatia on 13 June. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka will play in a team unchanged from the world champions' final World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in October.

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