England: Wayne Rooney


Written by Austin Ness in 2013

Updated and Edited by Maddie Keyes in 2015

Forward, #10, 28 Years Old



Image Courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Wayne_Rooney_Euro_2012_vs_Italy.jpg

English Prospects

The fortunes of the English national team next summer in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil depend heavily on the performance of their most skilled player, 28-year-old forward Wayne Rooney.  Led by manager Roy Hodgson, the English squad is a well-drilled defensive unit.  The players sit deep in their own half of the field, putting as many people between the ball and the goal as possible.  Their passing abilities pale in comparison to their Spanish and German counterparts, however, and England will definitely not enter the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as favorites to win it all.  In fact, these two international powerhouses currently possess such skill that it would be almost impossible to find a place in their starting lineup for any English player, excepting Wayne Rooney.  Regarded to be one of the highest quality players on the English squad, he will be expected to utilize his outstanding passing and goal scoring abilities to carry the team to success against the rest of the world. Rooney is undoubtedly England’s most skilled player, but he also symbolizes the disappointment that the team habitually encounters as Rooney has had multiple good looks at goal-scoring opportunities throughout his world cup career but has yet to capitalize. Despite his presence on the team, the optimism and lofty expectations that once surrounded England in the past are no longer present ahead of this tournament.


Pre-Rooney England: The Golden Generation

In the 1998 World Cup in France, England was knocked out of the tournament by Argentina in the round of 16, despite a sensational goal from 18-year-old Michael Owen [1].  The performance of the team, and especially up-and-coming players such as Owen, David Beckham, and Paul Scholes, gave England optimism for the future.  Together with similarly aged players like Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, and Frank Lampard, they formed a new wave of skilled youth that gave berth to the idea of a “golden generation” of English football talent that could potentially propel the team to their first victory in a major tournament since 1966 [2]. Although Rooney is not technically considered to be a part of this “golden generation,” he has played on the same team as many of these aforementioned players, including Gerrard and Lampard in the 2014 World Cup.

Now, 15 years after this the beginnings of this notion, almost all optimism surrounding the team’s potential success has been extinguished.  4 European Championships and 3 World Cups occurred between France’s 1998 World Cup and the upcoming Brazil 2014 tournament, and England qualified for six of these tournaments.  England came out of these competitions with 4 quarterfinal defeats, a Round of 16 loss, and a group stage exit.  Believe it or not, further inspection of these results reveals deep disappointment and underachievement after extenuating circumstances such as penalty kicks and debatable officiating.  At Euro 2000, an unacceptable loss to Romania led England to crash out before the knockout round.  In the 2006 World Cup and 2012 European Championships, England was doomed by penalties [3].  Against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, England thought they had equalized to 2-2 by way of a Frank Lampard strike in the first half, only for the referee to fail to spot the ball as having crossed the goal line.  After halftime, England was only down 2-1, but Germany overran them over the last 45 minutes en route to a humiliating 4-1 defeat [4].  Tragically bad goalkeeper errors also seemed to haunt England, as David Seaman’s mistake on Ronaldhino’s free kick in the 2002 World Cup and Robert Green’s fumble into the net against the United States in 2010 led to embarrassing results [5].



Professional Career

Wayne Rooney was born in Croxteth, Liverpool on October 24th, 1985, and from an early age had dreams of becoming a football player.  He joined his first team at age 8, and after only a year was spotted by a scout for the nearby Everton academy.  Rooney quickly became a star at Everton, rising through the youth system until his Premier League debut in 2002 at the age of 16 [6].  He quickly adjusted to the tough pace and skill of the Premier League, and just weeks after his debut became the youngest Premier League goal scorer in history with a strike from outside of the box in injury time against Arsenal [7].




Following his breakthrough with Everton, Rooney made similar progress on the national team.  He became England’s youngest player ever with his debut in 2003 against Australia, and England’s youngest ever goal scorer later that year against Macedonia.  For the 2004 European Championships, Rooney started all 4 games England played while scoring 4 goals to truly announce his presence on the international stage.  In the 27th minute of their quarterfinal match against Portugal, however, Rooney broke his foot and had to be subbed off immediately, and England fell to Portugal in penalties after a 2-2 draw [8].

After his stunning performance at Euro 2004, Rooney left Everton for Manchester United, and over the next decade would become one of their best players. Rooney has since won five Premier League titles and a Champions League title with the team, scoring over 200 goals and winning multiple individual accolades along the way, including the PFA young player of the year and numerous goal of the year awards for specific plays [9].  But despite his unparalleled success at the club level, there still seems to be some sense of underachievement with regards to his career with the national team.  Rooney showed so much potential at Euro 2004 at such a young age that expectations may have been set too high.  The past decade has also seen the emergence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and their seemingly superhuman abilities which have stretched previously-held notions about goal scoring in football.  In comparison, Rooney is not talked about on the same level as those two, but had he reached his peak five or ten years previously, he would undoubtedly be considered the world’s best player.



Image Courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fd/De_Rossi_tackle_on_Rooney_England-Italy_Euro_2012.jpg


Rooney has few weaknesses as a pure football player: he has always been able to pass intelligently, to use his head and both feet to score goals, and to soundly strike the ball from free kicks and penalties.  The only detriments to his game come from both his hot temper and his tendency to fall out of fitness through injury. After his stunning success at Euro 2004, Rooney would not score another goal for England in a major tournament until Euro 2012 in Ukraine.  A fractured metatarsal in his right foot ruled him out for the 6 weeks leading up to the 2006 World Cup, and although Rooney made the squad and eventually started the last two games for England, he was ineffective.  In another quarterfinal game against Portugal, Rooney was given a straight red card after 62 minutes for stamping on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho, and England lost on penalties once more [10].




By the time the 2010 World Cup rolled around, the golden generation was nearing its end.  The team had failed to qualify for Euro 2008, and Rooney contributed only 2 goals during all of qualification.  Michael Owen’s peak was already well behind him, as injuries and inconsistency had robbed him of his once-prodigious talent.  Scholes had retired in 2004, and Beckham and Ferdinand were injured for the 2010 tournament and would never suit up for England again in a major competition.  Lampard and Gerrard still played, and both will be in competition to make the 2014 squad as mentioned before, but by 2010, Rooney was clearly the figurehead of the team.  He had captained England in a friendly for the first time in the previous year, and had led the team in scoring during qualification [11].  England had earned one of the top 8 seeds in the tournament due to their dubiously high world ranking, and despite the disappointment of the past, the country’s expectations for the national team were still set high.  When the team drew a seemingly weak group of Slovenia, Algeria, and the United States, tabloids boasted about their confidence in England to advance.  One tabloid even printed, “EASY!” (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks) across their front page [12]. England endured a miserable tournament, however.  Defeats to Germany and the United States, coupled with the John Terry power struggle with Fabio Capello, not only humiliated the national team, but also finally pulled the wool from the country’s eyes.  A substantial gap had formed between England and the best teams in the world.  Spain had taken the world by storm with their tiki-taka passing, and Germany had reemerged as a football powerhouse behind their own youth movement.  The English golden generation had failed, and now Rooney was alone to take the blame.  He had an ineffective tournament, failing to score while embarrassing himself by talking back to fans after a 0-0 draw with Algeria.



As England prepares for the World Cup next summer, their odds of winning the tournament are slim.  Fans and pundits alike are no longer optimistic about England’s prospects either; Paul Scholes recently commented that he thinks England has, “no chance” of success, and Gerrard has spoken about setting realistic expectations for the tournament [13].  The failure of the golden generation had changed modern English football and the way the national team was perceived.  After 2010, everyone seemed to realize that England had come back down to earth, and could no longer be considered one of the best teams in the world.  England has also drawn one of the toughest groups in the competition, and will have to play their first two games against Uruguay and Italy as underdogs.  A slow start in Brazil similar to the ones England have suffered in recent tournaments will not be possible or acceptable.


2014 now represents a crucial stage in Wayne Rooney’s career.  After such a young debut, he has been near the top of the game of football for almost a decade now, and yet still has much to prove.  He is still at the peak of his career at age 28, but next summer’s World Cup likely presents the last opportunity for him to cement his legacy in English international football.  No matter what individual records he breaks, Rooney needs a good performance in a major tournament for the national team.  In order to shed his status as a talented player who never reached his potential, Rooney will likely have to propel England to victory in at least one of those first two games and advance out of the group.  More than results, however, English fans want Wayne Rooney and national team to play up to their potential, avoid embarrassing mistakes, and regain the pride and confidence that the national team once held in abundance, but has since lost.


Post-2014 World Cup Evaluation

It is hard to describe the English performance in the 2014 World Cup as anything but disappointing. Despite having an admittedly hard group consisting of Costa Rica, Italy, and Uruguay, finishing 0-1-2 was obviously not a desirable result. Although it was obviously not enough to carry the team to victory, Wayne Rooney did play a significant role in England’s World Cup progress. In the team’s first game against Italy, Rooney started out on the left side behind Sturridge. Although Italy’s Marchisio scored off a corner in the 35th minute, England quickly answered two minutes later with a goal from Sturridge off a cross from Rooney. Italy’s Ballotelli scored another goal after that, and although Rooney had good shot opportunities in the 61st and 86th minutes he failed to capitalize and England fell 2-1. [14]

In the next game of the tournament, England faced Uruguay. For this game, Rooney started directly behind Sturridge in the center. Rooney’s first opportunity in this game was thwarted by a Uruguayan handball just outside of the box; his resulting free kick sailed just high of the crossbar. Rooney again had another golden opportunity off a corner from Gerrard, where he could not quite keep the within the frame, instead bouncing it off the crossbar. Unfortunately, neither of these opportunities panned out and Uruguay’s Suarez scored in the 39th minute. Rooney did not just have his own scoring opportunities, however, as he also worked hard to set up his teammates, in particular a pass to Sturridge whose shot was blocked by the Uruguayan goalie. Rooney’s time to shine finally came in the 75th minute when he scored his first World Cup goal off of a brilliantly timed run and great midfield buildup. Unfortunately, Rooney did not get to bask in his glory for long, as Suarez scored the second goal for Uruguay in the 85th minute. Rooney got one more chance to score in the last minute, but unfortunately could not capitalize and England fell in a tough 2-1 loss. [15]


As England was already 0-2 going into the Costa Rica game, there were nine changes to the starting lineup from the Uruguay game. No matter the outcome, Costa Rica would advance and England would not so there was no real signifiicance to this game. This English coach took this opportunity to start the younger players from the team to give them more experience, meaning that Rooney did not start or play at all. [16]

Rooney’s World Cup performance as a whole was not entirely awful; he created many good opportunities as well as creating space for himself to feed balls in to his teammates in the box. While England’s overall results were less than satisfactory, Rooney personally came out of the tournament with a World Cup goal to his name at last.

Click here to return to the Players to Watch home page.

Continue on to Group D – Italy: Mario Balotelli

Group D – Costa Rica: Bryan Ruiz

Group D – Uruguay: Edinson Cavani

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Learn about England’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “England: Wayne Rooney” Written by Austin Ness (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:

[1] Winter, Henry. “World Cup 1998; Argentina 2 England 2, Argentina win 4-3 on pens: match report.”Telegraph.co.uk. 01 Jul 1998: n. page. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/england/9939779/World-Cup-1998-Argentina-2-England-2-Argentina-win-4-3-on-pens-match-report.html>

[2] Williams, Richard. “World Cup 2010: Golden generation passes on after 12 frustrating years.” The Guardian: Talking Sport. N.p., 27 Jun 2010. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2010/jun/28/england-golden-generation-world-cup-2010>.

[3] “Euro 2012 defeat is just the latest in this long line of England shoot-out woe.” DailyMail. 24 Jun 2012: n. page. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/euro2012/article-2164153/England-penalty-shoot-history.html>.

[4] McNulty, Phil. “Germany 4-1 England.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 27 Jun 2010. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/matches/match_51/default.stm>.

[5] “England goalkeeping mistakes: Top 5.” Metro.co.uk. 14 Jun 2010: n. page. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://metro.co.uk/2010/06/14/england-goalkeeping-mistakes-top-5-389109/>.

[6] “Wayne Rooney Profile.”www.officialwaynerooney.com. N.p.. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://www.officialwaynerooney.com/profile>.

[7] “Wayne Rooney Profile.”www.officialwaynerooney.com. N.p.. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://www.officialwaynerooney.com/profile>.

[8] “Portugal break England hearts.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p.. Web. 6 Dec 2013. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/euro_2004/3830451.stm>.

[9] “Wayne Rooney Profile.”www.officialwaynerooney.com. N.p.. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://www.officialwaynerooney.com/profile>.

[10] “Roone’ys dismissal stuns England.” BBC Sport – Football. N.p., 01 Jul 2006. Web. 8 Dec 2013. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2006/teams/england/5130880.stm>.

[11] “2010 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group 6.” . Wikipedia.org. Web. 11 Dec 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_FIFA_World_Cup_qualification_–_UEFA_Group_6>.

[12] James, David. “Roy Hodgson has to learn valuable lessons from England’s 2010 failure.” Guardian: Talking Sport. 07 Dec 2013: n. page. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/dec/07/david-james-england-world-cup-2014>.

[13] “Paper Round: England have no chance in Brazil.”eurosport.com. 30 Oct 2013: n. page. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://au.eurosport.com/football/world-cup/2014/paper-round-england-have-no-chance-in-brazil_sto4027277/story.shtml>.

[14] “FIFA World Cup 2014 – England vs. Italy (Highlights) – ESPN.” YouTube. YouTube, 30 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.

[15] “FIFA World Cup 2014 – Uruguay vs. England (Highlights) – BBC.” YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

[16] “FIFA World Cup 2014 – Costa Rica vs. England (Highlights) – BBC.” YouTube. YouTube, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.

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