Five Home Nation selection dilemmas as Rooney could be dropped while Burke keeps starting berth?


Robbie Purves | October 3, 2016

Five Home Nation selection dilemmas

With the international break here after a stellar start to the Premier league season, all Home Nation manager’s have dilemmas to mull over before a ball is kicked in the second wave of 2018 World Cup qualification.

Newly appointed interim England boss Gareth Southgate has the unenviable task of picking up the pieces Sam Allardyce left, while could Gordon Strachan allow Bundesliga teenager Oliver Burke to retain his place?

So, with this in mind, here are our five selection dilemma’s ahead of the World Cup qualifiers…

Southgate to axe England’s captain?

Wayne Rooney has recently found himself out of favour with his club Manchester United, starting on the bench in recent weeks.

There’s no doubt about it, Jose Mourinho’s side have looked more fluid in his absence and being benched for his nation could have the same liberating effect on the Three Lions.

In Sam Allardyce’s one and only England outing as manager, he claimed he couldn’t control the nation’s all-time leading scorer, saying: “Today Wayne played wherever he wanted to. He was brilliant and controlled midfield. I can’t stop Wayne playing there.”

However, in reality, it’s a distant memory to when Rooney controlled a game fully and the boss’ admission that he couldn’t tell Man Utd’s captain what to do, is symptomatic of the problem surrounding him.

He was a great player, a world class talent. But, the forward has run out of former glories to justify his place, and could be dropped by Southgate.

Pushing Dele Alli forward into an advanced position just behind the striker would be a great option, especially in his recent form – impressing against Pep Gaurdiola’s Manchester City at the weekend.

England are still odds-on favourites to top their group at 2/9 with Coral.

Buoyant Burke to bolster Strachan’s first XI?

After a bleak period, Scotland seem to be quietly developing impressive talent, of which Oliver Burke is the leading light.

Four goals in his five Nottingham Forest appearances this season saw him snapped up by one of the Bundesliga’s most exciting outfits. Red Bull Leipzig swooped for 19-year-old Burke for a fee thought to be around £13m, the largest ever sum for a Scottish talent and hit the ground running by coming off the bench to assist Leipzig’s winner over Borussia Dortmund.

The only quandary Strachan has to deal with is his international impact and the shape he wants to adopt. In Scotland’s last encounter, they steamrollered Malta 5-1. Burke looked anxious and tried to do too much and could perhaps be better suited to coming off the bench to inject pace, power and quality to a tired Scotland side, as he loves to penetrate defences with clever runs.

Instead, Celtic winger James Forrest could be a better option to start as he has recorded an eye catching five goals and two assists in seven league games.

Scotland are finally blessed with a deep squad of quality and could cause an upset by pipping turbulent England to Group F’s top spot at 8/1.

Kanu to remain benched?

Hal Robson-Kanu started both Wales’ quarter and semi-final at Euro 2016, yet has found playing time hard to come by at his new club West Bromwich Albion.

The combination of Robson-Kanu and Gareth Bale worked wonders during the summer, but it appears the duo will remain apart, after Chris Coleman left former out of the starting XI against Moldolva in the first of the nation’s World Cup qualifiers.

Joining the Baggies as a free agent, Robson-Kanu has managed just 16 minutes of Premier league action this term and may still not be fully fit.

Instead, Sam Vokes now seems to be the preferred option to partner Bale. Burnley’s Vokes has played 90 minutes in five of the side’s seven fixtures and could tempt Coleman into keeping one of the Dragons’ Euro heroes on the bench.

Coleman’s Dragons are top of their qualification group and 2/1 to win their pool outright.

Long fill Keane void?

Republic of Ireland lost their all-time leading scorer recently, after the 68-goal Robbie Keane retired from international football.

With him gone, where will the Boys in Green find their goals?

Shane Long is the most likely option and boasts a solid record for his nation, netting 16 in 67 games for Ireland. However, Claude Puel has preferred Charlie Austin in recent league games, having only played 89 minutes of a possible 270 in the last three league outings.

Another player that could slot in would be Daryl Murphy. The Newcastle United man scored on his last cap in World Cup qualifying, his first ever international goal, but is yet to play in the Championship for his new club.

Long will likely get the nod ahead of Murphy despite his limited playing time after becoming a permanent fixture in O’Neill’s outfit since Keane’s retirement.

Ireland are a generous 5/2 to qualify for the Russian World Cup.

Opportunity to bleed in fringe players?

San Marino have never won a competitive international and provides Northern Ireland with a chance to experiment with the team.

Niall McGinn has found national opportunities hard to come by of late, yet has remained bang in form – claiming four goals and two assists since the start of the season for Aberdeen.

In their last World Cup qualifier Michael O’Neill put out an attacking 4-3-3 with Kyle Lafferty in the middle of a forward line that has Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward on the wings. McGinn would be a great candidate to take one of these spots.

Alternatively, Conor Washington could be another forward option especially with Liam Boyce out of selection contention after being injured.

Further behind, Corry Evans may be an intriguing possible option. The Blackburn midfielder has chipped in with two assists from the centre of the park this season, and may be in line to take either Oliver Norwood’s place or even Paddy McNair’s if O’Neill opts to put the Sunderland man into defence.

They may face an uphill battle, but as the Euros showed, team spirit is high and they are 5/1 to qualify for their second consecutive major tournament.


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