England vice-captain Frank Lampard believes that frenzied debate over Wayne Rooney’s place in the team could damage their hopes of beating Uruguay tomorrow and reaching the World Cup’s last 16.
Rooney’s increasingly shaky status as a certain starter has become a sideshow to England’s tournament, fuelled in part by youngster Raheem Sterling dazzling in Saturday’s narrow defeat to Italy.
Manager Roy Hodgson is pondering whether to retain Sterling in the No10 role against Uruguay or switch him to a more familiar place on the flank and restore Rooney to his regular central position.
But Lampard is convinced that Rooney’s contribution is being unfairly questioned, and that navel-gazing over England’s best known player’s World Cup goal drought will prove counter-productive.
“I think we’re dwelling on something that we don’t need to look for. It’s about a team performance. We didn’t win the other night but the minute we start trying to focus on individuals again and again, I think it can become detrimental,” he said.
“We saw lots of glimpses from Raheem the other day around his attacking play and I think, if you take Wayne’s name away and look at the performance – the work rate and the ball he put in for the goal – people might look at it differently.
“They’re both fantastic players and the manager will want to get the best out of the team. To do that, you get the best out of individuals.”
Liverpool winger Sterling, 19, believes a return to wide positions could improve his performance, despite his impressive international debut in the middle, for a game England are anxious to win.
“It’s up to the manager to decide but out on the wing is my normal position so with Wayne’s vision and passing abilities and my running abilities it could be a really good thing,” he said.
Both teams are seeking their first points in Brazil, with Uruguay beaten 3-1 by unfancied Costa Rica their opening Group D fixture.
The Copa America champions are expected to have Liverpool striker Luis Suarez available again following his knee surgery, but full-back Alvaro Pereira is suspended. Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fighting to be fit for England.