Lucky Rooney let off lightly

England striker will miss only two games of Euro campaign
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It could have been worse for Wayne Rooney and England. The volatile striker should be grateful that Fifa kept to the minimum suspension yesterday when they banned him for only two matches for stepping on Ricardo Carvalho's private parts during England's ill-fated quarter-final against Portugal last weekend.

The world game's governing body appear to have accepted Rooney's claim, backed by the Football Association, that there was no intent behind his violent conduct and have ruled him out of the first two games in England's qualifying campaign for the 2008 European Championship, against Andorra, at Old Trafford on 2 September, and against Macedonia, away on 6 September. These first two competitive matches of Steve McClaren's reign as England coach are against the two easiest opponents in the group.

The Football Association, who risked antagonising Fifa's disciplinary committee and incurring a longer ban by refusing to issue an apology for the incident, believe Rooney has been given a fair deal. Adrian Bevington, their director of communications, said: "We believe the case has been dealt with fairly and we accept the decision."

The Manchester United striker should not be missed by England in either match, certainly no more than Rooney will miss the £2,400 he must pay to Fifa in a fine for his misdemeanour.

But the ban has generated two decisions for McClaren with Michael Owen ruled out for the forthcoming season because of his knee cartilage injury. If he abandons the 4-5-1 line-up that his predecessor, Sven Goran Eriksson, turned to during the World Cup finals, he must choose a partner for Peter Crouch up front and then decide whether or not to play Rooney in the friendly match against Greece that England are due to play on 16 August. That match is in jeopardy because the Greek FA have been suspended until they can satisfy Fifa that there is no longer government interference in the way the game is run in the country.

If, alternatively, McClaren sticks to playing a lone striker, Crouch could play that role and the attacking midfielders, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, could have another attempt to show that they can indeed surge through and score goals. A fine theory, it offered little in practice in Germany with Lampard, in particular, failing miserably to convert any of the countless half-chances that fell his way.

Rooney would be well served by waiting until Macedonia visit in October and spending his time while England prepare for earlier matches contemplating how, in future, he should deal with provocation.