Leading article: Theo strikes back

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The Independent Online

It is not easy scoring a hat trick in a competitive football international. And doing it against the well-drilled Croatians in their fortress of a stadium in Zagreb is even more difficult. Yet that is precisely what the young England striker Theo Walcott achieved on Wednesday.

England owes Mr Walcott a debt of thanks for breathing some life into the carcass of its national football team. But his feat was also an inspiring personal story. Walcott's selection two years ago for England's World Cup squad as an untested 17-year-old was heavily criticised. The lion's share of the criticism fell on the head of the former coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, for selecting him. But it was hard on Walcott too. He ended up stuck on the sidelines there were those who began to doubt whether he had it in him to make it at the highest level. Those doubters have been silenced.

Walcott's club coach, Arsène Wenger, is cautioning against England putting too much pressure on this 19-year-old. But Walcott has already experienced the fickleness of the public gallery. One suspects that Wenger need not worry too much about this young striker's force of will.

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