McClaren delighted with Rooney's return to scoring form

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LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) Wayne Rooney's welcome return to scoring form in 3-0 win over Estonia delighted England coach Steve McClaren, whose men are now just one win away from next year's European Championship finals.

England's fifth successive 3-0 win in Group E meant that if they beat Russia in Moscow on Wednesday they will qualify for the trip to Austria and Switzerland.

Rooney said before the Estonia game that he had not played at his best for England for some considerable time, while McClaren said the 21-year-old striker was ''potentially world-class'' but still had a long way to go to get there.

The comment clearly inspired Rooney, making his first England appearance for seven months, to have an excellent match.

He foraged deep in midfield, ran at defenders, linked well with Michael Owen in attack and crowned a very good afternoon's work when he turned and fired home a left-foot shot from a Joe Cole cross to put England 2-0 up after 32 minutes yesterday.

It was his first goal in 16 competitive matches for England since he scored two against Croatia in Euro 2004 in Portugal.

McClaren said afterwards: ''When players of his standard receive criticism, they have to prove themselves on the pitch.

That is exactly what Wayne did, and now he has to do it consistently.

''He admitted himself that he had a point to prove and he has gone a long way to doing that.

''We all know Wayne is a threat and I repeat, he has the potential to be world class. I am delighted with his goal but his overall contribution to the team was very good. He got better and better as the game went on.'' England were 3-0 up after 33 minutes yesterday and although they did not maintain their high tempo start to the match, the points were secured.

Croatia top the table with 26 points from 10 matches, England have 23 from 10 and Russia 18 with a match in hand.

Russia can still pip England but even if Russia win on Wednesday, England will still qualify as long as they beat Croatia in their final match at Wembley on Nov.21, no matter what Russia do in their final matches away to Israel on November 17 and Andorra on November 21.

If Wednesday's match is drawn, England would need a draw against Croatia to qualify.

The only worries for McClaren before his squad head to Moscow is the fitness of skipper John Terry (knee) and defender Ashley Cole, who injured an ankle against Estonia and looks unlikely to recover in time.

Reuters BJR RS2111

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