Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rooney losing mind game

Wayne Rooney speaks to a cameraman as he walks off the pitch dejected after the match between England and Algeria. Photo: Getty Images
Wayne Rooney speaks to a cameraman as he walks off the pitch dejected after the match between England and Algeria. Photo: Getty Images

Dion Fanning

Fabio Capello has claimed Wayne Rooney's problems are "in the mind" as England embark on their traditional bout of soul-searching following Friday night's scoreless draw against Algeria.

Rooney has had a terrible two games in the tournament. He seemed dispirited on Friday and his comments as England were jeered off by disgruntled fans that "it's nice to see your own fans boo you -- that's what you call loyal support, for fuck's sake," have gone down badly at home.

Last night, Rooney apologised for his remarks in bland PR-speak, far removed from the real voice we heard on Friday. "I said things in the heat of the moment out of frustration of our performance and the result," he said in an FA statement. "For my part I apologise for any offence caused by my actions."

Capello dismissed suggestions that Rooney could be dropped and said the player was fit, despite his struggle with injury in the last few months.

"Yes, he is completely fit. We have to tell him to go to the dressing-room all the time. He stays on the pitch for more time than the other players. It's not problem of the fitness, the problem is of the mind."

Capello believes that England's "fear of the World Cup" has caused their disappointing performances which culminated in the scoreless draw at Green Point stadium on Friday.

Capello needs things to change. He was asked on Friday if he would resign if England failed to reach the knock-out stages and he said it was too early to say. Failure to beat Slovenia on Wednesday -- a high-scoring draw could see them qualify too -- and it would no longer be too early to say.

Rooney's form is one problem but not the only one Capello has to wrestle with as he tries to inject some life into England's campaign.

In a country that often demands Churchillian rhetoric mixed with Freudian insight from their national team managers, Capello's bafflement at Friday's result will not be received well. "It is incredible," Capello said. "The performance on one side is good in training but on the other one they are not the same players."

He is expected to make changes -- and it will be demanded that he makes changes for the game against Slovenia. He appeared to rule out dropping Rooney -- "He's a good player, he's always dangerous for the other team -- the movement, everything" -- but offered no public solution to the problems that appear to be affecting England's most dangerous player.

Capello insisted no player was "untouchable" as he searches for answers to performances he acknowledges have been "incredible". "I think the fear of the World Cup is in the mind of the players."

The fear of failure will have to inspire them in Port Elizabeth or England will have failed to make the knock-out stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1958. "We train and everything is perfect, but when we play the players are not the same. I want to see the spirit, I haven't seen the spirit of this side." One day he may realise that he has.

Sunday Independent

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