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Friday, March 29, 2013

England v Moldova - A Big Game For Rooney

The Podgorica City Stadium holds just twelve thousand five hundred spectators, much less than the tickets to
Premier League games that usually sell; but the atmosphere there when England takes on World Cup playoff group leaders Moldova will be decidedly hostile.
Moldova, surprisingly only twenty four places behind England in the FIFA rankings, is desperate to show that they can dominate and overcome the visitors. When you are a citizen of a country which provokes the comment, “Where the hell’s that?” you burn for your team to overcome any country which can be found on the globe with a blindfold.

One wild card in the upcoming confrontation is whether Wayne Rooney will keep his cool. When the sides met in October 2011, Rooney earned himself a red card and a two match ban, which he served at the start of this World Cup campaign, for a kick at Miodrag Dzudovic (who is not a likely starter). The Moldovans, many of whom have experience in the wider European footballing world, in Serie A and the like, will have no hesitation in trying to niggle Rooney, who in his younger days was famously easy to inflame.

However it’s an older, more stable Rooney who will be taking center stage this week. The mature (some would say over the hill) England team will be wise to the likely spoiling antics of their opponents, and may feed off the situation to their advantage. A team intent on making mischief is a team not fully focused on their job.England can be, even with their veteran players, a famously aggressive and fast playing side. Sheer fitness will, as always in international football, be a factor in the important later stages of the game. Rooney never says die, and if he is on the field in the closing seconds, the England fans can justifiably be hopeful that he will score.

The fans have yet to see the best of Rooney in an England shirt - Podgorica City might just be a turning point in his less than stellar England career.

A win on Tuesday means that England go top of the group and are half way to qualifying for Brazil. If Roy Hodgson continues with his steady hand, England can expect to get at least that far.
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