Only Sterling can hit weak spot

Only Sterling can hit weak spot
England's midfielder Raheem Sterling (R) vies with Italy's midfielder Marco Verratti.

SAO PAULO - Reputation should not trump reality. Past glories do not compensate for present failings. Being a legend does not warrant a place on the left.

Wayne Rooney should step away from the wing and allow Raheem Sterling to dominate the stage his form deserves.

England's long suffering servant must be spared further punishment. Any further attempts to accommodate him only compromise the team's stability.

Rooney hasn't done anything particularly wrong. He just hasn't done enough right. Sterling's star is in the ascendency. His performance against Italy epitomised England's positive evolution towards a more attractive, passing game.

He caused havoc in possession. He spread fear among the Italians. Rooney spread uncertainty among his teammates.

Their next opponents in Sao Paulo have an obvious weakness. Uruguay have been lumbered with a gap they can't adequately fill. It's a rabbit hole of uncertainty.

If Sterling sneaks through it, he could tumble headlong into a World Cup wonderland. His reality would move into the realms of fantasy.

Only the 19-year-old Liverpool man can hit the South Americans' weak spot.

When Uruguayan right back Maxi Pereira lost his cool, his head and his status on the pitch with a frustrated foul on Costa Rica's Joel Campbell, he rolled out a red carpet along his flank for Sterling.

His suspension should be Sterling's confirmation.

Just as the Italians targeted Rooney's weak side, the Three Lions are likely to pull focus on Uruguay's wobbling right flank.

SUSPENDED

The 30-year-old Pereira was a muscular mainstay for club Benfica and his country. His presence possibly offered Roy Hodgson a ready-made excuse to leave Rooney in the left-wing wilderness; where two burly veterans could do battle.

But Uruguay's defensive obstacle is suspended.

Sterling has a chance to pass go, collect his $200 and keep England in the World Cup game. He is Hodgson's get-out-of jail card.

Not playing the winger in his natural left-sided position would be stubbornness to the point of recklessness; a hazardous decision to include Rooney at any cost. Such a team selection runs the risk of reading like a tournament suicide note.

For all of England's positive intentions against Italy, they got no points for aesthetic effort.

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