Rooney 'could be fit for the group stages'

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The Independent Football

Wayne Rooney is winning his race to be fit for the World Cup and may even feature in the third of England's group games, against Sweden on 20 June, according to reports last night.

The Manchester United striker's recovery from a broken metatarsal is said to be progressing so well that he could make the crucial clash in Cologne.

The upbeat medical bulletin will lift the mood of Sven Goran Eriksson, the England manager, who had been told by medical experts that Rooney only had an outside chance of making the latter stages of the tournament.

Rooney is said to be setting about his recovery work with a growing confidence that he can play a major role in Germany. He is free of the protective casing around his foot and is walking without discomfort - he is likely to step up his work next week with a chance of starting full training in early June.

However, he has abandoned the oxygen tent which was supposed to speed up his recovery because it was making him nauseous. Rooney will still not head out to Portugal for England's camp on Monday, he will stay in Manchester to continue his race to be fit but Fifa have said he must travel to Germany with the squad on 5 June.

Rooney is still thought to have no chance of playing against Paraguay or Trinidad & Tobago in England's first two group games but the Sweden match is possible as it falls more than seven weeks after he picked up his injury at Stamford Bridge.