Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Euro 2012: I believe in Walcott but Rooney is special, says England boss Hodgson

England fans celebrate during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between Sweden and England at The Olympic Stadium on June 15

England coach Roy Hodgson insists he has always had faith in Theo Walcott.

The Arsenal winger has not started any of the four games since Hodgson replaced Fabio Capello.

He came good when it mattered last night though, coming off the bench to inspire a famous England comeback as the Three Lions beat Sweden 3-2 in Kiev.

Walcott scored a brilliant equaliser within three minutes of his arrival, then set up Danny Welbeck for an equally sensational winner 12 minutes from time.

"Of course I believe in him," said Hodgson.

"He's a good player with good qualities. That's why I selected him in my 23.

"I have only worked with these guys for a month and am still learning what they're really good at, and what areas we can find improvement.

"But I was delighted with his performance."

England now require a point from their final Group D outing against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday to book a last-four berth.

And, even though Welbeck was joined on the scoresheet by fellow striker Andy Carroll, who headed England into a first-half lead, Hodgson has already confirmed he intends to hand Wayne Rooney an immediate comeback after completing his two-game suspension.

"I welcome those kind of selection problems," said Hodgson.

"I was really pleased with the performance of the front players.

"But Wayne Rooney is a special player and, frankly, it will be hard frankly to leave him out.

"I'm afraid you expect him to get back into the team when the suspension is served."

The statement merely underlined what a massive role Rooney is being afforded in the Hodgson era.

He must have gone through every emotion in the stands as England established a winning position through Carroll, tossed away the initiative with some chronic defending to gift Olof Mellberg two goals at the start of the second half, then secured a famous win thanks to Walcott and Welbeck.

"It was a good move," said Hodgson of the winner.

"Theo was able to skip away from the full-back and showed a lot of composure to find Danny at the near post.

"He timed his run very well and it was a very clever finish with the pirouette past the goalkeeper who thought he was going to toe it towards the near post.

"It was a great goal to win the game."