KRAKOW: Key England striker Wayne Rooney is set to feature at Euro 2012 for the first time on Tuesday but co-hosts Ukraine could be without their talisman Andriy Shevchenko as they battle to stay in the tournament.
England, with four points from two games, need only a draw to progress to the quarter-finals from their final Group D match while Ukraine must win at the Donbass Arena to avoid the same fate as co-hosts Poland and be eliminated after the first round.
Rooney is available again after serving a two-match ban for his red card against Montenegro in a Euro qualifier last year, but Ukraine are sweating on the fitness of Shevchenko, who scored both goals in the 2-1 victory over Sweden in their opening game.
Shevchenko, 35, missed training on Sunday after suffering two painful blows to his knee in Friday’s 2-0 defeat by France. Ukraine spokesman Oleksander Hlyvinsky said team doctors were draining fluid from Shevchenko’s knee.
In four previous appearances at the stadium, Ukraine have failed to triumph and coach Oleg Blokhin has spoken of his team’s need to break a perceived curse at the modern $400 million arena.
England manager Roy Hodgson must choose who makes way for Rooney, with Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck netting superb goals in the 3-2 win over Sweden, but winger Theo Walcott could miss out with a hamstring injury after an inspired display as a substitute against the Swedes.
Rooney said on Sunday that he was delighted to be available again and was sure England had no cautious thoughts going into their final group game.
“The lads have done so well to put us in the position we are in now and hopefully I’ll get a chance to play and try and shine and help us get through the group,” he told a news conference.
“It’s great that we’ve scored a few goals and we’ve got the points that we’ve got. I’m not going to win the Euros on my own — there are 23 players who are going to chip in and help us win the tournament, or go as far as we can.”
Rooney said he was fully-fit and ready to play, a prospect that may enhance England’s prospects and improve the fluency of their attacking play, but will do little to encourage Ukraine.
“Since I’ve joined up with the squad, I’ve took part in every training session,” he said. “I’m feeling good, I’m just feeling ready and excited to get out onto the pitch…”
England’s approach, he said, would be unchanged. “It’s the same as the first two games — we’ll go into the game wanting to win and wanting the three points. If we have to take a point then we’ll happily do that, but we’re going into the game trying to win.”
The natural decision for Hodgson would be to play Rooney with Manchester United team mate Welbeck. The two scored 30 goals between them on the 18 occasions they played for United last season.
Hodgson, however, was keen to lift the expectations on his 21-year-old striker.
“I would do well to encourage you not to put too much pressure on the lad,” he said. “Before we build him up to the skies to knock him down, we should remember he has a lot of time ahead of him.”