Wednesday 22 October 2014

Wayne Rooney again the scapegoat for English failings

Published 20/06/2014 | 11:21

England's Wayne Rooney has had a roller-coaster of a World Cup
England's Wayne Rooney has had a roller-coaster of a World Cup

It mattered little that he was better than the majority of his team-mates on the night, Wayne Rooney is well used to being the scapegoat for his under-performing country.

The England striker breathed fire back into the Three Lions World Cup campaign last night with a goal fifteen minutes from time, as we were told on numerous occasions, his first time finding the net in a World Cup Finals match in 10 attempts.

The equaliser not only revived their hopes for the tournament, it seemed to offer redemption for his plight in a white jersey.

However the goal had the opposite effect and it was a script we have seen all too often from England on the big stage.

They became rabbits in the headlights, unsure in possession and unable to press shift in momentum. It was Uruguay who took the initiative and there was a certain inevitability about the winner. Which of course just had to come form the Premier League’s outstanding player of the season.

With a rearguard that was shaky throughout, a midfield yet again struggled to retain possession and Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck struggling to make regular inroads on the Uruguayan defence, Rooney was arguably their best performer on the night.

He went close with a curling free-kick, hit the upright with a leaping header and was a general nuisance for Diego Godin and co. This from the same player who has been ridiculed by the press from the moment go in Brazil.

The cover of today’s Sun only seems to confirm Frank Lampard’s comments earlier in the week that there is a fixation on the Manchester United player.

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“It’s a bit frustrating when you’re in a team group and that happens because we’re there trying to play together - people are not selfish in this squad - trying to get results and a fixation with one player can become, rather than a debate, a bit of an agenda,” Lampard told reporter.

Last night Rooney bagged his 40th international goal, though social media was awash for the 75 minutes prior to his goal in Sao Paulo over the glaring omission of a World Cup strike. Injuries in previous tournaments were clearly a secondary issue and reveals more about the esteem he was held by previous managers. They felt a half-fit Rooney had more to offer than any other player at their disposal.

That he was reportedly in danger of losing his place in the team says a great deal about the tactics employed. As effective as Rickie Lambert is, for a position up front there is little comparison. Same applies for Danny Welbeck, another player sacrificed for the betterment of the team we are led to believe.

Comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are somewhat missing the point. Despite the potential to do so, being played out of position and drastic losses of form mean he is unlikely to ever scale such heights of two of the greatest players ever to grace the game. His failure to score with a gilt-edged opportunity prior to his goal contrasted with the clinical finishes of Suarez on the night.

On such margins are games and tournaments decided. One wondered if the prodigious teenage version of Rooney would have been so wasteful?

That should not take away from the fact that he remains one of the most talented players that Roy Hodgson can choose from, an ever shrinking pool it would appear.

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He has in many ways become the victim of his work-ethic, snuffing out danger in opposing teams to the detriment of his own preferred role up front.

In a disappointing season for Manchester United last time out, Rooney still scored 17 Premier League goals and provided 10 assists, favourable to his main challengers for the England No10 role.

Rooney is the latest in a long-list of players vilified for his performances in an England jersey.

The World Cup proved that he may not be the world-beater he once seemed destined to be, but compares favourably to his international colleagues.

A poor reflection on English football as a whole rather than the merits of Wayne Rooney’s abilities as a footballer.

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