Rooney set for starting role against Sweden

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The Independent Football

A day of rapid progress on Wayne Rooney's recovery from a broken metatarsal accelerated beyond England's qualification for the knock-out stage of the World Cup last night when Sven Goran Eriksson revealed he would play the striker from the start of the final Group B game against Sweden if he so desired.

Late goals from Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard transformed intense embarrassment against Trinidad & Tobago into mission accomplished as England booked their passage with a game to spare but, as ever, it was Rooney who dominated proceedings in Nuremberg with a 32-minute appearance at the World Cup. The 20-year-old was a 58th-minute replacement for Michael Owen with the game goalless at the Frankenstadion, having been freed to play earlier in the day by an independent medical team comprising Professor Angus Wallace and Chris Moran of the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Buoyed by both the dramatic late victory and vindication of his decision to confront Manchester United over the striker's inclusion in Germany, Eriksson insisted there were no conditions on Rooney's participation in the rest of the tournament and that he might ring the changes against Sweden in Cologne.

"He's match fit, we agreed to that and it's up to me how I use him. There is no limit on how long I play him at all," said the Swede. "I thought, and my coaching staff thought, that he was match fit. We decided he could start on the bench today and maybe give him 30 minutes. The day we thought he was match fit we wanted independent doctors to come as quickly as possible.

Eriksson added: "He's not 100 per cent fit but you have to expect that. It was very important to give him 30 minutes otherwise we would have had to wait for another five or maybe 10 days. I'm relieved the saga is over. We have talked about it every day, me and the players, and I'm fed up with it."

The news that England fans had prayed for, but scarcely dared to believe possible - that Rooney was passed fit to play, came at 12.48pm yesterday. That was the verdict of Professor Angus Wallace, who told the player on 7 June that it would not be safe for him to play before 20 June, the last Group B match against Sweden. The orthopaedic surgeon flew to Nuremberg on Wednesday, along with Professor Chris Moran, a specialist in fracture management, at the invitation of the Football Association.

The two independent advisors said that their visit had been made because "Wayne's recovery has been more rapid than expected over the past week". This was because of "the excellent care" he had received "and because Wayne has worked so hard at his recovery". The two specialists said their decision had been made without "pressure" from the FA, despite Eriksson's clear intention to make his mind up on Rooney's return date.

Professor Wallace and Moran's statement said: "Our sole concern is Wayne's well-being. This morning's evaluation involved examining Wayne, watching him train, studying video footage of him in full contact training over the past two days and discussions with the England medical staff.

"We have also had an extensive discussion with Ivan Carminati, England's fitness coach and Wayne's fitness levels are better now than before Euro 2004. It is clear he has received excellent care and rehabilitation from the Manchester United medical team.

"Due to his positive attitude and approach and the care he has received, Wayne has made a more rapid recovery than initially anticipated. We have carried out a full risk assessment related to returning him to play and that indicated he is at no more risk than any other player who has recovered from an injury and is returning to competitive sport.

"It is our professional medical opinion that Wayne Rooney is now available to play in the World Cup."

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