LONDON – Wayne Rooney can break Bobby Charlton’s 45-year-old record and become the first player to score 50 goals for England when Roy Hodgson’s men take on San Marino and Switzerland in two upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers in next week.
Charlton’s mark of 49 goals from his 106 internationals has stood since May 1970 but Rooney, who has 48 in 105 matches, has the perfect opportunity to set the new record when England plays tiny San Marino in Serravalle in Group E on Saturday.
If he should fail, the England captain, who has scored in England’s last five qualifiers and has nine goals in his last 12 international games, will get a second chance when England faces Switzerland at Wembley next Tuesday.
Victory against San Marino, which has only avoided defeat in one competitive international in the last 10 years, will virtually ensure England’s qualification for next year’s finals in France.
England leads the group with a perfect haul of 18 points from six matches, with Switzerland trailing with 12 and Slovenia third with nine.
Despite a host of injuries, Hodgson will certainly hope to see England stretch its unbeaten run in World Cup and European qualifiers to 26 against San Marino.
Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, one of the players included in the squad, partly as a result of the injuries but also because of his good early season form for Swansea City, says he will do all he can to help Rooney get the record on Saturday.
Last week, Shelvey, whose only cap came against San Marino in 2012, was in the Swansea side that beat Rooney and Manchester United 2-1 in the Premier League, but on Wednesday their club allegiances were put to one side.
“For me he is the best English player in England,” Shelvey told a news conference at England’s training base at St George’s Park in the Midlands.
“He is a tremendous player, and it speaks volumes of what he is about to do. If I play, I will try and set him up to get the two goals for the record and hopefully he can do it.”
England has won all five competitive matches they have played against San Marino with a goal tally of 31-1.
San Marino coach Pierangelo Manzaroli achieved something of a minor miracle in November when his team drew 0-0 with Estonia, the first time they managed to avoid a competitive defeat in a decade.
He has little chance of repeating that relative success against England which won 8-0 at Serravalle on their last visit there, for a World Cup qualifier in March 2013.
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