Hodgson hails settled Rooney

Roy Hodgson has expressed his pleasure that Wayne Rooney has settled his future before the World Cup and believes the Manchester United striker could be England’s captain for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

England have been handed a seemingly straightforward draw for Euro 2016 in Group E along with Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.

Hodgson insists current England skipper Steven Gerrard may still be involved but views Rooney as a future captain.

The England boss has no doubts Rooney would have been focused on the World Cup even if he had not signed a new deal with United but is pleased the five-and-a-half year contract for the striker removes any uncertainty.

Hodgson, speaking in Nice after the Euro 2016 draw, said: “I trust Wayne and even if his future hadn’t been settled in this way, he could have still focused on the World Cup.

“It must be nice for him to know he’s committed the bulk of his best playing years to Manchester United and England, so we’re very happy for him and very happy for Manchester United and ourselves as well.

“Wayne, I’m sure, is a future captain of England because we are losing some of the famous players of the past who have served England so well.

“Steven Gerrard’s playing magnificently for Liverpool and has been a major factor in their season so far, and I wouldn’t want to write him off [for Euro 2016] but maybe when the day comes for Gerrard to hang up his boots, Wayne will be straight in there, I’m sure.”

Hodgson was delighted England have drawn Switzerland, the side he managed when they qualified for the 1994 World Cup and Euro 96.

“From an emotional, sentimental and nostalgic point of view, Switzerland was always something special,” he added.

“I was pleased to see them coming out of the hat even though they are having some success and are ranked high in the Fifa rankings.”

Euro 2016 qualifiers will also see Uefa’s “week of football” idea put into action, with matches taking place every day from the Thursday to Tuesday of double-header international weeks.

Hodgson, however, foresees some problems for England if they have to play an important game on the Thursday evening.

He said: “The major problem for us is that often before we get together with England, Sky Sports have their so-called Super Sunday matches often involving the best teams playing each other.

“If they are going to be playing on Sunday and we are playing on the Thursday, then from a selfish point of view that is not going to be advantageous. But it’s not all about what England want, it’s what’s best for other countries and I’m more than happy to go along with it.”

Switzerland should be England’s biggest challenge, having secured a 2-2 draw at Wembley in qualifying for Euro 2012, but Slovenia proved problematic at the 2010 World Cup when England squeaked home 1-0.

Slovenia head coach Srecko Katanec believes England are not currently of the same quality as Spain and Holland.

He said: “Honestly for us it is a good draw, we have England and Switzerland but for me it is more difficult to play against Spain or Holland or someone else like Germany.

“I saw the World Cup match on television and England were without confidence, there was something not well with the team but this was in the past.”

England will kick off their Euro 2016 qualifying with perhaps their toughest fixture — away in Switzerland on Monday September 8.

The first qualifier at Wembley will be against San Marino on Thursday, October 9 swiftly followed by an away tie against Estonia on Sunday October 12.

England’s final qualifier is away against Lithuania.

Elsewhere, Wales have a shot at a play-off place or better in Group B, where they will face Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, Israel, Cyprus and Andorra.

With 23 places at the finals up for grabs — France go straight in as hosts — prospects of smaller nations going through have raised the stakes. Two teams will go directly to the finals from each group, and the best third-placed side will join them, with four others advancing from play-offs between the eight other third-placed finishers.

Wales boss Chris Coleman said: “Definitely there’s a bit of excitement in there; anticipation. Everybody’s wondering what’s going to happen.

“Teams like ourselves — Wales, Scotland and Ireland and Northern Ireland — it gives us a little more chance of maybe qualifying and reaching a major tournament. It’s all up for grabs.”

Northern Ireland were drawn in Group F with top seeds Greece, Hungary, Romania, Finland and the Faroe Islands.

Manager Michael O’Neill said: “Greece will be a very tough game but it would probably be the country you may have chosen. We have teams in there, the likes of Hungary, Romania and Finland, that I believe we can compete with and take points from.

“We’re happy with the draw. We need to maximise our points at home. We’re well capable of doing that.”


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