England captain Steven Gerrard has admitted that Wayne Rooney is "itching" to get his first taste of Euro 2012 action against Ukraine in Tuesday’s decisive Group D clash.
The Manchester United striker is free to play having served the two-game competitive suspension he was handed following the red card he received against Montenegro last November.
Roy Hodgson’s side require only a point to guarantee their place in the quarter-finals and the manager confirmed his most experienced forward would start alongside either Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll, who both scored in the 3-2 victory over Sweden.
"Everyone knows what Wayne Rooney is all about," Gerrard told reporters. "He certainly makes us a lot more threatening going forward.
"He’s a world class player and I know Wayne quite well, I’m quite close to him, and I can see it in his eyes that he’s just itching to get out there and perform. Hopefully he can get out there on Tuesday night and make the difference for us."
Rooney’s return means that either Carroll or Welbeck will drop to the bench despite both having scored against the Swedes. Hodgson, who also revealed Theo Walcott is fit to start having shaken off a calf problem, admitted that he faces a difficult selection headache.
"It’s become a very difficult choice because both have done so well both in the training matches before we came to the tournament and in the tournament itself," Hodgson explained.
"So they’ve given me the classic manager’s headache but it’s the one we all want really because it’s players playing well competing for a place. But I have made it clear to everybody that Rooney will start the game so that decision has to be made.
"I think our ambitions were clear from the start; we came here hoping to do well and hoping that we would play well enough to qualify from the group.
"We haven’t quite done that, we have a very big game, but I don’t think the fact Wayne is back changes our ambitions. We believed all along, with the team I’ve been playing, that we could do well in the competition. Our intention is to do the same thing again."
First Published: Monday, June 18, 2012, 23:07