Rooney and Sturridge bond in Brazil, Sterling tipped to start

May 27, 2014

World Cup whispers: England strikers must gel as Times journalists undergo riot training

England's biggest challenge before the World Cup is establishing an understanding between strikers Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney, believes manager Roy Hodgson. Between them the pair scored 48 goals last season, but they are unproven as an international strikeforce, having played together for just 172 minutes during qualifying. Now they must gel on and off the pitch. "Rooney and Sturridge may have little shared playing history, but have been making a conscious effort to get to know each other better off the pitch in the last week, having informal debriefing sessions after training and relaxing with computer games," reports The Times.

As he gets to know new chum Sturridge, Rooney has been warned that he has to "step up" in Brazil, by former England striker Mick Channon. "For me, Wayne Rooney is not the strong link, he's the weak link," the former 65-year-old told the Daily Mail. "I’ve got a lot of time for him but he's never delivered in World Cups, has he? This time, he's got to come to the party. It’s time to step up, boy." But it's not just Rooney Channon is worried about. Fellow strikers Sturridge and Danny Welbeck question marks over their talent and temperament he says, while Rickie Lambert lacks pace.

Every World Cup has a "bolter", the fringe player who establishes himself as a star. Could Raheem Sterling be that man for England? The Liverpool youngster looks set to feature against Peru on Friday after impressing the England coaches "with his attitude and confidence while at the party’s training camp at Vale do Lobo in Portugal last week," says The Guardian. He is also being lined up to play a key role in England's opener against Italy on 14 June because of "his fearlessness and willingness to run at defenders".

Brazil are taking no risks as they prepare for a World Cup on home soil for the first time since 1950. Exhaustive dossiers have been prepared on 16 teams that Brazil will or could face on their way to the final. England, possible quarter final opponents, are believed to be among them. But it's not just the opposition getting the once over, the players have been given a thorough medical check-up at the squad's base outside Rio de Janeiro, with stars pictured having their teeth and ears checked.

Brazil's players may be ready, but what about the rest of the country? With less than a fortnight to go until kick off, unrest in Brazil continues and the team bus came under attack at the weekend from striking teachers. "There is palpable tension in the air about whether drawing the eyes of the world to Brazil really was a shrewd idea," reports The Times. The paper even admits that its staff covering the tournament have been put through riot training. "No one was nodding off as we listened to the lecture from a former Marine," says Matt Dickinson.

Belgium's warm-up for the World Cup began with a routine victory over minnows Luxembourg on Monday night. But although the 5-1 result was not a surprise there was plenty for Belgium fans to enjoy, including a hat-trick for Romelu Lukaku and a debut for Man United teenager Adnan Januzaj. Luxembourg did notch a rare goal, but the Red Devils will not be unduly alarmed as they had rested both their usual keepers, Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet.

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