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Rooney has to play for England, says Charlton

ESPN staff
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Wayne Rooney is struggling for form and fitness ahead of the World Cup © Getty Images
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Roy Hodgson can't afford to drop Wayne Rooney from his England starting XI at the World Cup, Sir Bobby Charlton has warned.

Rooney has been struggling for form and fitness ahead of the tournament in Brazil - which kicks off next week - and is likely to be rested by Hodgson for the friendly with Ecuador in Miami on Wednesday.

Hodgson has been faced with calls to install Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, who scored in the 3-0 win against Peru on Friday, as his leading striker with Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling all pressing for starting places in the England attack.

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However England legend Charlton feels Rooney, who has failed to score at the last two World Cups, simply has to start in the Group D opener against Italy on June 14.

"Wayne Rooney is the only one that comes to mind when you think of where are our class players coming from," said Charlton.

"He will have to play. He's just got that something extra. He will thrive on a successful performance in the World Cup.

"A lot of the others are young, and they have an opportunity and they have something to prove, but it's going to be difficult.

"In every position there seems to be a little bit of doubt in my mind, apart from Wayne Rooney and even Wayne would want to play in certain positions, but it's up to the manager.

"The manager is very intelligent and he will know exactly what he has got to do and, although I don't think England can win the World Cup, I don't think England will be ashamed either."

Charlton has also backed Rooney to break his international goal-scoring record, with the striker 11 adrift on 38.

He added: "I tell him that if anybody is going to beat my record for the number of goals scored it better be you, and I said so don't let me down, and he says OK.

"He's young enough and he has the ability. When he scores he likes the thought of it and he has a great attitude.

"If everything goes well and he is not injured he will certainly be England's great football player. He has a quality that is made for a World Cup."

However Gary Lineker, who scored 48 times for England, has taken a different view and believes Hodgson should give Sturridge the nod as his main striker.

Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring for England in the 3-0 win against Peru last week © Getty Images
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"Sturridge gives us different options. He gives us a threat in behind the opposition which I think is very important. That's something that Rooney doesn't do as often," said Lineker.

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

Lineker also admits Hodgson could find it difficult to find a place for Rooney in his side if he does go with Sturridge.

"You've got the conundrum - if Sturridge is up top in the system, where do you play 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 Wayne Rooney?' We've got all sorts of options. You could have Sterling playing on one side, the possibility of Lallana playing on either side, [Danny] Welbeck, of course, which 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.

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

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