Returning Rooney set to thrive for buoyant England

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With 30 minutes to go in Kiev and England 2-1 down, Wayne Rooney must have been watching from the stands with a familiar sinking feeling.

With England seeming set for another major tournament let down, Rooney would have been the man the nation was counting on heading into a likely do-or-die encounter with Ukraine following his return from suspension.

Instead, with Theo Walcott’s cameo ensuring that Roy Hodgson’s men turned the game on its head to secure a 3-2 win that puts England’s Euro survival back in their own hands, Rooney now knows that he returns to a side buoyed by victory and needing only a draw to qualify.

It means that rather than buckle under the weight of pressure on him – a burden that has often resulted in him playing like a man possessed – Rooney can now relax and thrive in a side with renewed vigour and confidence, still unbeaten under their new manager.

Instead of roaming the pitch frantically searching for the ball, throwing himself into challenges he otherwise wouldn’t commit, Rooney can lead England’s line alongside his club colleague Danny Welbeck – a partnership that was really beginning to blossom at Old Trafford.

It all means that while he may be two games and three goals behind, at 66/1 a buzzing Rooney may not be a bad shout to still finish leading tournament scorer.

Ukraine showed against France that home advantage doesn’t mask evident defensive frailties, and with the hosts needing a win to progress, they won’t be setting their stall to keep it tight.

England attacked well on the counter against Sweden on Friday – particularly once Hodgson had introduced Walcott – and the man who finished second in the Premier League scoring charts last season with 27 goals is likely to reap the benefits.

And should England top the group they are likely to face Croatia, a side that will hold no fear for the striker who scored a brace against them at the Euros in 2004.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.