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Europa League round of 16 draw

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Neville: Rooney ban shifting focus

Referee Wolfgang Stark believes Wayne Rooney may escape a prolonged Euro 2012 ban as he declined to protest his dismissal on Friday, but Gary Neville says the talk of his suspension is merely a distraction from the fact England are "not good enough".

• Redknapp: Ban could be costly
• Wilkins urges FA to consider Hoddle

Stark issued Rooney with a straight red for kicking out as England played out a 2-2 draw in Montenegro in their final competitive game before the finals and, given his status as Fabio Capello's star player, there are concerns that it could severely hamper the country's chances.

UEFA is likely to make a ruling on the length of the suspension next month, and Stark feels it is possible that Rooney's reaction will spare him an extension to the obligatory one-match ban.

"He accepted it without dissent," Stark said. "Maybe it will help Rooney the way he acted by accepting my decision. It was a straight red card. I had no hesitation.

"You saw what happened and Rooney knew by his reaction. He just walked off. I have no more input into the process. I will submit my report and it is up to UEFA what they will do."

However, former England defender Neville feels the focus on Rooney's unavailability means the country is not looking at the real problems.

"The most disappointing thing about his red card is that it distracts from the major issue," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday. "With England, we're always looking for an excuse; we're always caught up in the minor rather than the major.

"The real issue is that the spine of the team is not good enough, as it stands, to take on Spain, Italy, France or Germany at Euro 2012.

"Going into major tournaments we always put all our pressure and hopes on one man. I've seen it before with Rooney in 2006 and 2010 or David Beckham in 2002. Even before them, it was Kevin Keegan or Bryan Robson in the '70s and '80s.

"It's as though we think that one world-class player might be able to propel us to a major trophy, and now we're talking about Rooney possibly missing two games of Euro 2012 when what we should be talking about is the spine of a team that has no mobility and can't keep the ball.

"When I look at it coldly, a team that has John Terry, Gary Cahill, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry, Darren Bent and Rooney in its central positions is nowhere near good enough to take on the major nations such as Spain.

"I'm not having a go at individuals - there are some very good players among those names. Collectively, Rooney aside, there is hardly any pace, very little invention and hardly any rotation of positions. Compare that with the spine of Spain: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, David Villa and Fernando Llorente."

Neville believes that, even if they are inferior, it is essential England find a way to stop world and European champions Spain in their friendly at Wembley in November if they are to find the belief needed to provide a challenge next summer.

"Never has a friendly been more important," he wrote. "It's like a cup final. Somehow, Capello has to do something that no England manager has done in 15 years, and that is make the England players believe that this next match could be the most important of their life.

"Let's be clear, England are not as good as Spain. But you can't just accept they're better. You have to find a way to stop them, to disrupt the rhythm and to hurt them going forward - because England need to believe that, in a one-off, they can beat Spain.

"The rest of Europe is watching and if Spain do what most people think they will do and destroy us, just like France did in February 1999 at Wembley when they were world champions, then England will go into Euro 2012 thinking they have no chance."


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