Wayne Rooney is planning to get Manchester United’s Champions League final defeat “out of the system” by firing England to the brink of next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
At the end of a long season, England’s stars could have done without an eight-hour flight to central Asia for Saturday’s match against Kazakhstan.
But Rooney insists he is itching to play his first match since his club’s 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in Rome last month and shrugged off concerns about the five-hour time difference, high temperatures and concerns over the quality of the playing surface in Almaty’s Central Stadium.
“For most footballers, it is a job we all love and if you can play wherever, you will play,” Rooney said.
“To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to these England games to get Rome out of the system.
“Of course you are disappointed but, at the end of the day, we just have to deal with it. It has still been a good season. Because it was the last game of the season if feels disastrous but we still won the Premier League, the League Cup and the Club World Cup, so overall it has been a good season.
“Barcelona were the better team on the night, so you have got to give them credit. With professional players these things happen — what better way to get it out of your system than with two World Cup qualifiers.”
England go into Saturday’s match looking to consolidate their strong position in group six, in which they stand five points clear of second-placed Croatia after winning their first five matches.
Six points from Saturday’s match and Wednesday’s Wembley meeting with Andorra would leave Fabio Capello’s squad in a virtually unassailable position and, having beaten the Kazakhs 5-1 at Wembley in October, it would be a major surprise if they failed to maintain their perfect record in the group.
Frank Lampard acknowledged that complacency was the main danger facing England in the former Soviet republic.
“We know when we played them at Wembley that we were not at our best and they put us under some pressure and had a high work rate,” the Chelsea midfielder said.
“We will have to be even more concentrated on Saturday. We have watched the rerun of the Wembley game to refresh our minds about how we performed in that game.
“No doubt we will look at it again and we have to make sure we perform as well as we are capable of – and hopefully that will be good enough.”
Lampard added: “If we can get six points from these two games, we know we will take a huge step towards ensuring qualification for next summer’s finals.
“Everyone is fit and fresh and, whether they have lost or won cup finals with their club teams, they are very focused.
“We have come here early to acclimatise and over the next few days we will get used to the conditions.”
England are without first-choice goalkeeper David James, who has undergone shoulder surgery, and Rooney’s club-mate Rio Ferdinand, who did not travel as a result of a recurrence of a calf problem.
Otherwise Capello has most of his big names available. Robert Green is expected to stand in for James while the Italian must choose between Everton’s Joleon Lescott and West Ham’s Matthew Upson as a centreback partner for captain John Terry.
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