England: Getting Ready for Rooney?

Posted on June 12, 2012 by Joe Plewes

Rooney’s petulant kick at Mirodrag Džudović in a sodden Podgorica perhaps accurately summarises half of the Croxteth-born forward’s international career.  A sudden, callow and frustrated burst from a player who has proven equal part brilliant and equal part awful in his seventy-four England caps.

Yet having managed a hefty return of twenty-eight international goals at the age of just twenty-six; it’s likely England’s joint-ninth highest scorer of all time is tearing his newly found hair out at the prospect of missing England’s first two group games. Roy Hodgson can’t be far behind in his anger, as in a team premised on endeavour and effort, one player who can produce that magic moment is fairly high on the 64-year-old’s shopping list.

Getting the best out of Rooney – who has proven enigmatic in action for the Three Lions – must be weighing heavily on Hodgson’s mind. Having utilised Ashley Young effectively in the number ten role (although perhaps less so against the French); it will be interesting to see which piece Rooney will be in the former Fulham manager’s puzzle.

Leaving the potentially volatile hit man out of his disciplined and functional 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 might be tempting if England can perform in their second group game against Sweden – yet Hodgson surely cannot afford to leave out a player who may well end up being England’s top goal scorer of all time if he stays fit and stays out of trouble.

He has certainly made progress in the latter this season – avoiding a yellow card in the Premier League until United’s penultimate fixture against Swansea. Indeed, discipline wise the maturing forward has improved dramatically since his malfunction in Montenegro.

It had to. If we leave that aberration aside then an older, wiser Rooney could be the greatest asset to English football in the modern era. Here’s a look at the highs and the lows of the four-time Premier League winner’s England career.

Wayne-ing on our Parade – Rooney’s worst England moments:

1. Wayne’s World Cup 2010

Rooney’s expedition to South Africa is certainly one he will not look upon fondly. Not only did he look unable to trap a sandbag – yet alone the rather unpredictable Jabulani ball – he managed to alienate England’s travelling fans due to a rather ill-judged rant.

That came after the Three Lions stumbled to a draw against an unfancied Algeria, while Rooney’s abject performance hardly justified his criticism of the English support. Perhaps internal strife and lurid allegations yet to emerge about his private were weighing heavily on his mind, but either way – Rooney owes his support a major tournament performance.

2. Wayne Roos Portugal red

Likewise, his World Cup 2006 display did little to endear Rooney to England’s travelling army. An hour into England’s quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen. England’s number nine squabbled for possession, and as he was pulled back by Ricardo Carvalho the Portuguese defender fell to the floor.

Rooney appeared to stamp on his opponent, and the rest as they say, is history. Portugal fought off a spirited England in the dreaded penalty shootout, while Ronaldo’s infamous plea to referee Horacio Elizondo and a later wink will live long in the memory – how much would Rooney give for tournament revenge on his former teammate?

3. Rooney injury leaves England in the Meier

Four goals at just eighteen was a truly staggering return for Rooney at Euro 2004, as we will later look at. Yet England were left to ponder what might have been after their young prodigy limped out of action. Rooney had occupied the Portuguese central defence brilliantly, allowing the space for Michael Owen to add to his impressive array of international goals.

Yet just before the half hour mark, Rooney chased a ball down the right hand side of Portugal’s penalty area before being caught on his right foot – causing him to break his fifth metatarsal. Rooney was replaced with Darius Vassell – who later on went to miss a penalty along with captain David Beckham – while Sol Campbell’s strike was controversially ruled out by referee Urs Meier.

Out of this Rooney-verse – The Best of Wayne’s International Career:

1. The young pretender

At Euro 2004, Rooney became the hottest prospect in world football. Having bullied stalwart defender Lilian Thuram and winning a penalty against France; Rooney netted braces against both Switerland and Croatia to earn comparisons with Pele’s breakout tournament – the 1958 World Cup.

While England crashed out of the tournament in the quarters, Rooney made the world sit up and take note, in doing so justifying the huge Manchester fee United had just paid for him.

2. Rooney shoots England into South Africa

While the tournament was one to forget, Rooney’s display for Fabio Capello’s England were of a far higher quality. Netting nine goals – three more than anyone else in qualification – it seems that Rooney may have given us some rather false hope! Included in those goals was a delightful overhead kick – albeit against footballing minnows Kazhakstan.

3. Rooney bullies Bulgaria

Perhaps a less notable performance, but Rooney’s performance in Sofia last September was one of immense quality. The way the England forward dropped into pockets of space in front of Bulgaria’s back four had fans salivating, especially with the way England worked the ball between France’s back four and midfield on Monday. If Rooney can translate that form when he is introduced into Euro 2012, the so-called ‘lower expectations’ might rise up rather quickly.

Any Rooney moments you want to share? Any predictions on how he will get on in this tournament? In his absence England are at 2.10 to beat Sweden with Oddslife’s free to play Euro 2012 Predictor!

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