Eriksson gambles World Cup dream on Rooney

England coach will take the striker to Germany if there is any chance of him being fit for latter part of tournament.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 18:34 IST

England national coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will take hobbling striker Wayne Rooney to the World Cup if the player has a chance of being fit for the latter part of the tournament.

"If we - and when I am talking about we I mean (Alex) Ferguson, myself, the medical staff of Manchester United and the medical staff of the England national team - think that at some stage he will take some part then I will pick him," Eriksson said.

The 20-year-old Manchester United striker broke his foot in the 3-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday and has been ruled out of action for six weeks.

England, widely-tipped as one of the tournament favourites should a fit Rooney play, begin their World Cup campaign on June 10 against Paraguay - exactly six weeks away.

"It is too early to know if he is going to have a chance to be fit or not, but if we think he has a chance then I will pick him," added Eriksson.

"It is a hope and it is a hope for all England fans. We are talking about Wayne Rooney, he is one of the best players in the world and he is extremely important for us, so if we think he has a chance to get fit during the World Cup then of course we will pick him."

Eriksson said he will remain in regular contract with his medical staff and will take a view on Rooney's fitness nearer the May 15 selection deadline.

"I think we have to look at it closer to the World Cup," he added. "For anyone to say today it will take six weeks, it will take eight weeks, it is difficult for anyone to say that.

"I hope the World Cup is not over for Wayne Rooney. I hope so for him, for the team, for the fans because he is extremely important for us.

"But if the medical team tell me he has no chance then I will not pick him."

The injury to the country's deadliest striker sent shockwaves through the England camp.

England midfielder Steven Gerrard and former national team boss Sir Bobby Robson believe Rooney's injury could prove fatal to the team's World Cup dreams.

"It would be a disaster for England if we had to go to the World Cup finals without Wayne. He is idolised around the country and is our main man," said Gerrard, a close friend of the 20-year-old striker.

"I think it is impossible to have a successful World Cup without Wayne."

Rooney's participation in Euro 2004 was ended early when he broke his fifth metatarsal in the same foot - and on that occasion he did not play again for 10 weeks.

Robson said England's chances would be seriously affected without Rooney.

"It's depressingly sad. Without him we would go from possible World Cup winners to outsiders," Robson told the BBC.

"We can't replace him."

Robson said Rooney had the quality to influence this summer's tournament in Germany.

"People who win World Cups are top individuals. Who won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986? I'll tell you - it was Diego Maradona," he said.

Robson said Rooney must be taken to Germany - even if there was only a chance of him playing later in the tournament.

Should England progress, their first knock-out game would not be until 24 or 25 June, with a quarter-final taking place on 30 June or 1 July - potentially giving Rooney three extra weeks to recover.

"What you need is your top players for the quarters, semis and final. That's when Rooney becomes crucial," said Robson, who took England to the World Cup semi-final in 1990.

"If you can get him back for the quarter-finals then you take a chance and take him."

There was some good news for Eriksson on Sunday when Rooney's strike partner Michael Owen said he was on course for the finals despite suffering a scare in Newcastle's 0-0 draw at Birmingham.

Owen came off the bench and played 30 minutes in his return from a broken foot but after the match he complained about feeling pain in the same foot.

However, an X-ray revealed there was no fresh damage and Owen should be fit.

A Newcastle spokesman said: "Michael saw the specialist and had an x-ray and undertook various tests.

"The results were positive - there is no damage and the specialist said that it was quite normal for a certain level of pain to be experienced in the first couple of games back after an injury of this type."

First Published: May 01, 2006 12:49 IST