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Daniel Sturridge has ousted Wayne Rooney as England's key striker, says Gary Lineker

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Under threat: Wayne Rooney's starting position in Brazil is in danger after a string of impressive performances from Daniel Sturridge

Under threat: Wayne Rooney's starting position in Brazil is in danger after a string of impressive performances from Daniel Sturridge

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Under threat: Wayne Rooney's starting position in Brazil is in danger after a string of impressive performances from Daniel Sturridge

Gary Lineker has added his voice to those saying that Roy Hodgson must consider leaving Wayne Rooney out of the England team this World Cup finals, with Daniel Sturridge now the lead striker for the tournament.

The former England striker, and now leading Match of the Day presenter, treads a diplomatic line in discussing Hodgson's options, but he leaves no doubt that he believes the key forward is Sturridge, around whom the team must be built.

Lineker has been extremely critical of Hodgson's England in the past, describing them as "awful" during the goalless draw with Ukraine in Kiev in qualifying.

This time he argues that it is a team that must work on the premise that Sturridge starts as the leading striker who will push defences back and create space for England in front of the opposition's area.

Lineker said: "You've got the conundrum – if Sturridge is up top in the system, where do you play Wayne Rooney?

"Wayne can play anywhere. He can play on the right, he can play on the left, he can even play a forward midfield role, but the question then is 'have you better players in those particular positions than Rooney?'

"We've got all sorts of options. You could have Raheem Sterling playing on one side, the possibility of Adam Lallana playing on either side, Danny Welbeck, who has been favoured by Roy in his teams, and you'd expect him to play on the left-hand side because he covers a lot of ground.

"So it will be interesting to see which way Roy Hodgson goes. Or whether he sets back to that old way we played two years ago against Italy, with two lines of four, Rooney and someone else up top.

"So he has all sorts of possibilities. It will be fascinating to see which way he goes."

Rooney played his first game since April 26 with 66 minutes against Peru on Friday and thus far Hodgson has said that it is premature to judge his form.

That game was Rooney's 90th cap for England and he is 11 goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time goalscoring record of 49.

That record has now stood for 40 years and it is remarkable how England strikers Lineker (48) and Michael Owen (40) have fallen fractionally short having looked like they would comfortably surpass it. The expectation has always been that Rooney will eventually get there.

Nevertheless, the question of Rooney will dominate the build-up with the player unlikely to start against Ecuador tomorrow when Hodgson will opt for a more experimental side.

Sturridge's goal against Peru underlined his ability to pose a threat to opposition teams but it is the space he creates that Lineker also identified as a major factor.

Lineker said: "For me there's one thing that should be pretty permanent given fitness and form, and that's that Daniel Sturridge plays up front, in the middle.

"I think from time to time in different systems, Roy has used him on one side or the other, and had Rooney up front in the middle, but I think Sturridge gives us different options.

"He gives us a threat behind the opposition defence, which I think is really important and that's something Rooney doesn't do so frequently," he continued.

"He's very good at coming off course, creating space, turning, hitting shots and bringing other people into the game, working hard, but in terms of a threat behind the opposition's defence, that's Sturridge's territory.

"He's very good at that. That makes the opposition nervous, so they edge a little further back and open up some space to exploit."

Belfast Telegraph