LONDON – Sven-Goran Eriksson selected injured Wayne Rooney and took an even bolder gamble on teenage Arsenal striker Theo Walcott when he named his provisional England World Cup squad on Monday.
Manchester United striker Rooney was included despite being a major doubt fo
r the finals with a broken foot.
Eriksson, who said last week it could take a miracle for the inspirational 20-year-old to play in Germany, is still hoping Rooney can take some part in the finals.
The 17-year-old Walcott has yet to even play for Arsenal’s first team since joining the club in January from Southampton for an initial five million pounds ($9.33 million).
However, with serious concerns over Rooney and his strike partner Michael Owen, who missed Newcastle’s final game of the season against Chelsea on Sunday following a setback in his comeback from a broken foot, Eriksson has opted to give the untested Walcott a chance to impress.
“It’s a big gamble, I know it’s a gamble, but his pace in football is worth a lot,” Eriksson told a press conference of his decision to include Walcott in front of Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent.
Both of those strikers were surprisingly omitted as Eriksson named just four frontmen in his squad, although Defoe is on a list of five back-up players which includes West Ham United’s young captain, midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker.
Eriksson, who will be replaced by Steve McClaren after the finals in Germany, showed his faith in two young wingers, with uncapped Tottenham teenager Aaron Lennon and Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing both on the list.
However, there was no place for Lennon’s Spurs team mate Ledley King, who is recovering from a broken bone in his foot, or Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips.
FIFA rules allow Eriksson to change an injured player from his squad up to 24 hours before kick off in their first Group B match, against Paraguay on June 10.
Goalkeepers: David James (Manchester City), Robert Green (Norwich City), Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur)
Defenders: John Terry, Wayne Bridge (both Chelsea), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville (both Manchester United), Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell (both Arsenal)
Midfielders: Joe Cole, Frank Lampard (both Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), David Beckham (Real Madrid), Michael Carrick, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon (all Tottenham Hotspur), Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough)
Forwards: Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Michael Owen (Newcastle United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal). — Reuter