Neville expects Rooney to shine
Published 16/06/2010 | 12:05
Gary Neville is backing Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney to hit the World Cup goals trail and prove how important he is to England.
Rooney has scored just once in his last eight internationals for England, and struggled to impose himself against the United States defence in Saturday's opener in Rustenburg.
But Neville, a veteran of the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, is confident the 23-year-old will soon begin to show the menace which has established him as England's first-choice striker.
"I think players like Wayne Rooney can only be kept quiet for so long," Neville said in a webchat on www.thetimes.co.uk.
"I thought his general play in the first game was very good. He just didn't get the opportunities in front of goal that inevitably he will. I also think it's more important that he saves the goals for the latter stages of the tournament."
Neville has won 85 caps for England and is convinced there is no reason to panic following the opening 1-1 draw against the US, when Robert Green's mistake allowed the opposition to get back on terms following Steven Gerrard's opening goal.
He said: "From past experience, and watching the other fancied teams in their first group matches, it is really difficult at the start of a tournament to perform at your very best. Now that one is out of the way you will definitely see England get into their stride in the next two matches and they have the opposition to do that."
Neville does not expect England to stick rigidly to a 4-4-2 formula and believes Fabio Capello will have to be flexible in his planning for future matches, to ensure his team are not crowded out in midfield.
Algeria are the next opposition for England, in Cape Town on Friday, and a tussle with Slovenia follows in Port Elizabeth five days later.
Neville said: "I think in certain games, particularly against better opposition later in the tournament, England will have to go to a different system to get more strength in midfield so that they are not outnumbered.
"I think playing 4-4-2 in the next couple of group games may be okay because of the strength of the opposition. However, against the likes of Argentina, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, who are excellent at keeping possession, it is very difficult to play straight 4-4-2."
He added: "I always like to see one player up front in international football with another player supporting from midfield. My experiences with England have always been that we've struggled to keep possession at times, playing 4-4-2."