Rooney toils and Suarez taunts England as phony war begins
Liverpool striker warns of England's 'deficiencies' as Rooney struggles with feet of clay
There is little doubt that the main narrative in the build-up to England's crunch match against Uruguay on Thursday evening concerns the relative fortunes and prospects of strikers Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez.
Rooney is the would-be hero with feet of clay while Suarez is the pantomime villain lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce on England's defence.
Both men cut frustrated figures at the start of the campaign. Rooney was played out of position and endured another off night against Italy, in the ninth World Cup game in which he has failed to score for England. Earlier on Saturday Suarez, recovering from knee surgery, was forced to watch as his Uruguayan team-mates threw away a lead against Costa Rica and lost 3-1.
But now Suarez is back from injury and and champing at the bit to get at England. The Liverpool striker came through a full training session at the Uruguay base in Belo Horizonte on Monday and will start the Group D match after missing his country's shock defeat to Costa Rica.
He declared himself "100 per cent fit" and issued a warning to the Three Lions. "I know all the players in the England team, either as team-mates or opponents. They have defensive deficiencies that I can exploit, but I will not say in front of the media how to do so. We have to move forward with strong character. Trust us."
Rooney had a message of his own, but it was for Roy Hodgson rather than the media, says The Guardian.
"While [Suarez] was telling reporters in Sete Lagoas that he was fit Wayne Rooney was taking it on himself to do extra shooting and training drills at England's base in Urca while team-mates conducted a lighter session as he, too, seeks greater involvement, and a central role, in the contest."
Rooney is "clearly desperate" to impress, says the Daily Telegraph. The players who performed against Italy, with the exception of Rooney, enjoyed a gentle work-out while Rooney went through his paces with the unused substitutes.
"The fact that Rooney was not replaced by anyone in the group of starters pointed to the fact that, instead of facing the axe, he was more determined than ever to be at his sharpest," adds the paper.
However, The Times says his extra training may not augur well for his chances of playing against Uruguay. "Hodgson's decision to increase his workload beneath the sweltering heat of the midday sun in Rio de Janeiro is confirmation that there are concerns over his form and fitness," it warns.