No slip-ups in Belarus, says revitalised Rooney

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Wayne Rooney has warned England's stars not to surrender pole position on the road to South Africa when they face Belarus in World Cup qualifier.

Updated: October 18, 2008 17:17 IST
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Wayne Rooney has warned England's stars not to surrender pole position on the road to South Africa when they face Belarus in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier.

Fabio Capello's side travel to Minsk knowing a fourth successive win would cement their status as Group Six leaders heading into the new year, while a defeat at the Dinamo Stadium would drag England back towards the chasing pack.

With the group winners guaranteed a place in the 2010 finals, England -- who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 -- are desperate to establish a significant lead over group rivals Croatia and Ukraine as quickly as possible.

Although England ran out 5-1 winners over Kazakhstan at Wembley on Saturday, they laboured for long periods to kill off a team ranked 131st in the world.

The absence of injured defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole also leaves England more vulnerable than Capello would like.

Rooney, who scored twice against the Kazaks, has no intention of showing any fear however and the Manchester United striker insists England must raise their game as only a victory is acceptable on Wednesday.

"We have to make sure we get the full six points from these two games otherwise the result in Croatia will have been for nothing," he said.

"Against Belarus, it is going to be a tough game. To win away at any ground is really difficult now.

"Away from home in a World Cup qualifier, there is generally not much in those matches, so we just have to go there and try to win.

"We won't be settling for a point. We'll be desperate for three points again. I always feel that points are the most important thing in qualifying games.

"You need to get the points before you think about anything else. But after that it is always nice to put on a strong performance.

"We've done well, we've won our last three games and we are starting to score more goals now. I'm enjoying my football at the minute and hopefully I can keep doing well for club and country."

England can record their best start to a World Cup qualifying campaign with win over Belarus, but Rooney's sights are set on a far more significant achievement.

Rooney believes success in Minsk could be a staging-post on their march towards World Cup glory in South Africa.

"With England, we're starting to play well and give good performances as well as getting results," he said.

"I don't want to get carried away and say 'we will win something' but we are certainly working towards that -- and getting better each game.

"Hopefully, we can qualify and then we'll take it from there. Everyone dreams about winning trophies and to get a trophy with England would be unbelievable.

"I'm sure it's not just myself but all the other players who dream of winning trophies for England. If we could do that, it would be unbelievable."

Matthew Upson is likely to deputise for Terry again despite the West Ham centre-back's shaky display on Saturday, while Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge should replace team-mate Cole.

England's defensive worries will be eased if former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb fails to recover from an ankle injury suffered last month after his move to Barcelona.

Hleb has been sidelined since September 13 but was still named in Bernd Stange's squad in case he recovers in time to play some part.

Belarus have three points from their first two games, a win over Andorra and a narrow defeat to Ukraine when Andriy Shevchenko scored a stoppage-time penalty.

But Stange's side have been compared to Arsenal because of their fluid attacking movement and the Belarus coach is adamant they have no reason to fear England.

"I think my guys will go out with nothing to lose and they should not have any fear of their opponents," he said.

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