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Hodgson relishing prospect of Rooney return

ESPN staff
June 13, 2012 « Haye and Chisora vow to behave | Chartbeat test »

Roy Hodgson hopes England can overcome Sweden in their next Group D clash before welcoming back Wayne Rooney, who he has described as his "ace in the hole".

Rooney, currently serving a two-game ban, watched from the sidelines as England drew 1-1 in their tournament opener against France on Monday. Hodgson called upon Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to lead the attack, but the England manager already has an eye on Rooney's highly-anticipated return.

"He is our real ace in the hole because he is very fit and raring to go," Hodgson said.

"If he can play like we know Wayne Rooney can, we're going to be a bit more difficult to beat. You can only benefit from having someone of his quality in your team."

Hodgson praised the efforts of his youthful attacking trio after the match in Donetsk, but believes Rooney's guile and experience may provide England with a lift, particularly if they are contention to progress beyond the group stage.

When asked where he was looking for the most improvement, he said: "It's in the final third. Once or twice, especially in the first half, there were some very promising counter-attacks which broke down because we tried a one-touch pass to finish it off rather than taking an extra touch.

"The French were just the opposite. They don't play a lot of one-touch football around the penalty box. They take two or three touches, hold onto the ball and ask another question. Sometimes we want to try and finish it off too quickly. That's because of the intensity of the Premier League.

"You must remember we had Ashley Young, who hasn't always played that position, and Danny Welbeck, who is 21 and did really well. You've got to make allowances for the fact that they had Karim Benzema, who is much older and playing for Real Madrid, and Samir Nasri. You can expect a bit more from them when they get in the final third than I can expect from our players at the moment.

"Glen Johnson made some good raiding runs down the right. The pass and the movement for James Milner's chance was the type of thing we are looking for. That was a really good attack. A few other attacks foundered on the fact that we didn't quite get the last pass right. We must make allowance for the fact that everyone was quite nervous going into the game."

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