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Finding England's next prolific goalscorer: Mission impossible?

Could Harry Kane come close to matching Wayne Rooney's record goal tally for England?
Could Harry Kane come close to matching Wayne Rooney's record goal tally for England?

When Wayne Rooney scored his 50th international goal in the European Championship qualifier against Croatia last month, he might not just overtaken Sir Bobby Charlton as England's all-time leading goalscorer -- he may also have become the country's last prolific international striker.

Only seven other English players have scored 30-plus goals at international level, and they represent a select group: Tom Finney/Nat Lofthouse in the 1950s; Jimmy Greaves/Bobby Charlton in the '60s; Gary Lineker in the '80s; Alan Shearer in the '90s; and Michael Owen joining Rooney in the 21st century.

Beyond the rare elite skill set and high-level ability required to become a lethal international forward, there is another challenge that makes the prospect of finding England's next prolific goalscorer even more difficult: today's game and youth system. It is doubtful Rooney's goal record tally for England will ever be broken, not the way the game is structured at the moment.

Here's a look at the factors and challenges that go into developing a top-tier goalscorer on the international level and an evaluation of England's capped youngsters and prospects in the pipeline who have an outside chance to fill that role.


Sergio Aguero supports boss Manuel Pellegrini amid Pep Guardiola rumours

The ESPN FC crew discuss whether Sergio Aguero could be considered the third-best player in the world following his five-goal match against Newcastle over the weekend.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has been backed by striker Sergio Aguero after Pep Guardiola was again linked with the manager's job at the club.

Bayern Munich manager Guardiola has been tipped to replace Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium next summer, but the Chilean recently signed a new deal that keeps him under contract until 2017.

Aguero helped Pellegrini, who won the Premier League title in 2014, return to the top of the table by scoring five goals in Saturday's 6-1 win over Newcastle.


Chelsea in advanced talks with Ramires over new contract - sources

The ESPN FC crew explain how Jose Mourinho and Chelsea can reverse their poor start to the Premier League season.
The ESPN FC panel discuss Radamel Falcao's woeful time in England and can't help but feeling that his career is beyond saving.

Chelsea are in advanced talks with midfielder Ramires over a new deal at Stamford Bridge, sources have told ESPN FC.

Ramires' current deal expires in 2017 and Chelsea are in talks to hand him a new four-year contract to keep him at the club until 2019.

The 28-year-old was strongly linked with a move away from Chelsea in the summer, with Italian champions Juventus credited with lining up the Brazilian after losing key midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal in the summer transfer window.


 By Kelvin Leong

Baihakki: Afghanistan surprised lucky Singapore in AFC World Cup qualifier

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson review Singapore's narrow 1-0 win over Afghanistan courtesy of a late goal from Khairul Amri.

Had Baihakki Khaizan not put his knee in the way deep into injury time, Singapore might have been held to a draw instead beating Afghanistan in their AFC World Cup Group E qualifier on Thursday night.

The Johor Darul Ta'zim II centre-back managed to repel Zubayr Amiri's 93rd minute header on the line and the Lions escaped with a lucky 1-0 win at Singapore's National Stadium.

"I saw Madhu [Mohana] and Izwan [Mahbud] going for the ball," he told ESPN FC.

"Somehow, the Afghanistan player (Amiri) got...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Croatia's Mario Mandzukic sidelined by hamstring injury

Croatia will be without Mario Mandzukic this week as they try to qualify for Euro 2016.

A hamstring injury will prevent striker Mario Mandzukic from playing in Croatia's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Malta.

Croatia host Bulgaria on Saturday and then travel to Malta for their final Group H match on Tuesday, but they will have to do so without their first-choice striker.

"Unfortunately, Mandzukic cannot play due to a hamstring injury," Croatia national team doctor Boris Nemec told the Croatian federation's website.

"He has been examined on Wednesday and concluded that he...

 By PA Sport

Football Association prepared to drop support of Michel Platini - Greg Dyke

Take a look at the rise and fall of UEFA President Michel Platini following his recent suspension for 90 days from football.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has said for the first time that the governing body will drop its backing for Michel Platini if FIFA's ethics committee finds he behaved improperly.

UEFA president Platini and FIFA president Sepp Blatter have been handed 90-day provisional bans by the committee while investigations take place into a £1.35 million payment to the Frenchman.

The action leaves Platini's hopes of running to succeed Blatter in tatters and Dyke said the FA was waiting for the...