LONDON: Wayne Rooney has backed Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck to fire England's attack in his absence at Euro 2012.
Rooney is suspended for England's first two group matches against France and Sweden and Welbeck made a convincing case to deputise for the United star as he bagged his first senior international goal to seal a 1-0 win over Belgium in Saturday's friendly at Wembley.
Welbeck hadn't played for club or country since suffering a bruised ankle playing against Manchester City on April 30 and is currently taking antibiotics for a stomach complaint, but he still showed enough glimpses of his vast potential to suggest he is a more potent threat than Andy Carroll, who is his main rival for the targetman role in Roy Hodgson's side.
The 21-year-old underlined all his qualities in both the build-up to and the eventual conversion of his goal.
When Belgian midfielder Dries Mertens dwelt on the ball in his own half, Welbeck showed he is willing to work for the team as he nipped in to clip the ball towards Steven Gerrard, who moved possession on to Ashley Young.
Welbeck then showcased his pace as he surged past the Belgian rearguard to meet a slide-rule pass from Young before demonstrating his predatory instincts with a cool chip over advancing goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
That was more than enough to convince Rooney that Welbeck, who has improved significantly since a loan spell at Sunderland in 2010-11, should be the focal point of Hodgson's forward line at the Euros.
“Danny's spell at Sunderland helped him. He came back bigger and stronger and started more games for United last season and coped really well,” Rooney said.
“It was great to see him get his first goal. I have seen enough to believe we will be fine without me for those games.
“Danny and Ashley (Young) have done very well and Alex (Oxlade-Chamberlain) came in and did brilliantly on the wing.
“I think we have got the players to get results in those first two games.”
Whether he starts or not, Welbeck, who has made only five appearances for England, admits the goal has whetted his appetite for his first taste of a major international tournament.
“It's definitely a special moment for me. To get my first England goal in that way, I'm delighted,” he said.
“It is a massive honour. I'm just looking to build on that performance and get more games under my belt and more goals.”
“It's really exciting. There are exciting times ahead. Not just for the younger ones, but the senior players as well. Everyone is looking forward to it and I can't wait to get out there.
“We had plenty of talent across the whole squad and I think everyone is pushing to get on the pitch and show what they can do. That can only be good for England.”
Rooney will be back for England's final group game against co-hosts Ukraine and he was pleased to make a second half substitute appearance against Belgium as he tries to stay match fit during his enforced break.
He only joined the squad this week as Hodgson granted him time off for a holiday with his family in Las Vegas and he believes the rest will help him when he finally features at the Euros.
“It was good to get a run out and to be honest it was a bit longer than I expected,” he said. “It was important I got some rest and I had a good week but I didn't think it would be fair for me to meet up just as we were flying out to Poland.
“There will be plenty to play for by the time I can play and I hope I can show the manager what he wants to see from me so that he puts me in the team.”
Rooney has no doubts England can qualify for their group despite his absence and a series of injuries to key players like Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry.
“I think four or five points will get us through the group and we are capable of beating France and Sweden,” he said.
“Obviously you need a bit of luck too but if we are not confident there is no point turning up.”