Trinidad & Tobago ready for England 'with or without Rooney'
Thursday 18 May 2006
The Trinidad & Tobago coach, Leo Beenhakker, insists that his side are happy to face England with or without Wayne Rooney at this summer's World Cup.
The two nations meet in Nuremberg on 15 June and with England the clear favourites, the expected absence of the injured Rooney could favour Beenhakker's men. But the Dutch coach believes this summer's showpiece is the perfect arena for Rooney to showcase his talent and has sent the Manchester United striker his best wishes.
"I am very sorry for the guy," he said. "I think first of all, the World Cup is a platform for great players.
"Football is for the fans and for the public, and they want to see players that can bring something extra, like the Ronaldinhos, and the Eto'os and the Rooneys.
"Those players have to be there because it's exactly what the World Cup is all about and from my heart, I hope he can make it because everybody wants to see him. I hope he is fit and healthy as soon as possible because it would be fantastic to see him play. For us, it doesn't matter if we play England with or without him. They have many great players."
For the former British colony, there has been much hype around the England fixture since the World Cup draw was made in December. Beenhakker has also named 15 British-based players in their final 23-man squad, and coming to England this week for a one-week training camp in Cheshire has done little to ease the anticipation.
Yet the former Ajax and Real Madrid manager insists that he and his players are not getting distracted.
"I'm not fixated on England," he said. "There is always two sides in football. One side is the fans and the media, who like to blow things up, and the other is the professionals, and we are always focused on the next game.
"The most important match in your career is always the next game, and I can assure you that me, the team and the rest of our staff are only focused on one thing, and that's Sweden."
The Soca Warriors, who are making their first World Cup finals appearance, play the Swedes on 10 June in Dortmund, with their final Group B game against Paraguay on 20 June.
Elsewhere, the Olympic boxing silver medallist Amir Khan has advised England's World Cup prodigy Theo Walcott to use the support of his family to help him stay grounded. Walcott was thrown into the media spotlight when the 17-year-old was selected for Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for Germany despite not playing a first-team match for Arsenal
The Bolton boxer Khan, 19, knows all about the pressures of fame having become an overnight star after winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics two years ago. But he said if he stepped out of line he would expect "a clip round the ear". "It is hard because you are young. The best thing to say is: don't let it get too much - but be yourself," said Khan. "That is what I did at the Olympic Games as I was the youngest member of the team. You also need to keep your family support and keep the right people around you."
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