Wayne Rooney says he is desperate to finally make his mark on the World Cup after firing England to next year’s finals in Brazil. Rooney’s ability is unquestioned and his contributions to Manchester United’s success at club level are undeniable, but he has repeatedly failed to deliver at major international tournaments.
Now the 27-year-old striker has another opportunity to make amends for those flops after scoring the crucial opening goal to set England on course for a 2-0 win over Poland at Wembley on Tuesday that guaranteed qualification for the World Cup. Rooney knows England’s chances of a serious bid for glory in Brazil would be greatly enhanced if he can play to his best at last and he has set his sights on doing just that.
“That’s what I want to do in all the tournaments but it hasn’t happened,” Rooney said. “I want to do well and help England be successful, that won’t ever change. There is no added pressure on myself, but obviously I want to perform. When you play for England, the obvious goal is to be successful and try to win trophies. That would be the icing on the cake for me. Hopefully I’ve still got a bit of time to do it.”
After bursting onto the international stage at Euro 2004, it has been all downhill for Rooney at the showpiece tournaments (see box on left). But he believes England are in better shape to make an impact after manager Roy Hodgson cast off his conservative tactics in the last two qualifiers.
A 4-1 win over Montenegro last week was followed by a solid dismissal of Poland and Rooney believes the usually cautious Hodgson’s decision to blood vibrant youngsters like Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend, Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and United’s Danny Welbeck has given the squad a new lease of life.
“I think the younger players are taking that (pressure) off me now,” Rooney said. “We’ve got so many exciting players; Welbeck, Townsend, (Jack) Wilshere. If we can use them and the other senior players we’ve got then it should be exciting times. They have all come in and added something to the team, so it’s great. They have given us some real excitement going forward.”
Rooney has more than done his part after scoring seven times in his last six qualifiers to take his England goal tally to 38. But he has experienced too much disappointment to predict great things for England just yet. “We will have our targets behind closed doors and I’m sure the media and fans will as well,” he said.