Wayne Rooney injury panic is dejÃƒÂ vu for England fans
It probably feels like dejÃƒÂ vu for England fans as injuries wreak havoc amongst the national side’s top players ahead of the World Cup.
In Germany four years ago it was Wayne Rooney who left fans fretting going into the competition after he picked up a broken metatarsal just 42 days before the tournament began. In the same year Michael Owen only managed to struggle through two group stage games before suffering a freakish knee injury.
In 2002 the story was no different, with David Beckham, Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard major doubts going into the competition; Beckham and Neville with broken metatarsals and Gerrard with a groin injury that completely ruled him out of the competition.
But the worrying truth for England this year, more than anything, is the evident reliance on the Manchester United striker that his injury - picked up on Tuesday night during the Champions League quarter-final against Munich - has brought to light. Simply put, there is no English striker anywhere near as good as Rooney and his absence would undoubtedly be a major blow.
But does the reaction to Rooney’s injury outline a more serious problem in the England camp? The last three World Cup’s have been marred by injuries to a handful of players at most; something other national sides would be able to handle, no matter how crucial their presence was. Arguably, these injuries show that England are a team of individuals that rely upon the big stars to bring them together.
Take Spain, for example. Despite having a number of world-class players, their ability to play well as a team is what gives them that extra edge which, at the moment, sees them as favourites to win the World Cup in South Africa. If you take one of their stars out you may not be able to replace them with a player of similar quality, but there is no doubt that the player coming in will be able to adapt and ensure that the unit continues to work effectively.
This England side lacks this adaptability. They are a team of very different players who struggle adapt to a set role within a side. For example Rooney is very different to Crouch and Defoe is very different to Bent. Try to replace one with the other and you’re less than likely to see an instant impact, at least not unless you’re willing to change the tactics in order to fit the new player into the squad.
This could, of course, be attributed to the uncertainty surrounding crucial positions in the England squad. Walk into any pub in the country and you’ll here people debating who will play on the left, who deserves a go on the right and who should partner Rooney up front. This uncertainly over who is going to play where undoubtedly works against the side - how can you work as a cohesive unit when you don’t know who you will be playing with?
The likes of Brazil and Spain have relatively set teams going into the World Cup, with the only question marks being over who will occupy the fringe positions in the squad, as opposed to England’s doubt over their starting eleven. Unless Fabio Capello can get this side working together, as a unit, with a solid starting line-up, this could unravel the national side.
Of course, England are still among the favourites to be triumphant in South Africa, but the exact extent of their success may come down to just how serious Wayne Rooney’s injury is.