Portugal the ruin of Rooney again

Old foes leave England's talisman red-faced once more
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The Independent Online

Those who doubt whether Wayne Rooney will have enough tales to fill five books on his playing career by the time it draws to a close, a small problem for a reported £12m advance admittedly, are overlooking the fact that one could be taken up entirely with tales of woe against Portugal. The latest chapter being the most painful to read.

There is little that has not been bent to the formidable will of England's No 9 in the four years since he made his Premiership debut at Goodison Park, but the men from the Iberian peninsula have offered a constant act of defiance, inflicting upon him frustration, pain and a rare sense of under-achievement in equal measure.

Until yesterday evening in Gelsenkirchen, the most torturous night of Rooney's international career came in Lisbon in 2004 when, as the host nation sent England out of the European Championship in an all-too familiar penalty shoot-out defeat, the striker was sitting in a hotel room with his agent, Paul Stretford, his fiancée, Coleen McLoughlin, his first broken metatarsal and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness as a campaign he had inspired floundered in his absence.

There was also a Portuguese influence on the second fractured toe that spread such recent turmoil throughout the nation, Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira being the unwitting instigator with his challenge during Jose Mourinho's Premiership coronation against Manchester United. Nothing, however, could have prepared the 20-year-old for the ultimate misery of his 33rd appearance for England, a performance that lasted only 61 minutes before a combination of a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho, dogmatic refereeing and goading from his Manchester United team- mate Cristiano Ronaldo resulted in the first red card of his international career.

The argument over whether Rooney's hair-trigger temper cost England in the same way that David Beckham's did in St Etienne in 1998 will inevitably flare again, but that would be harsh on the nation's finest talent, who paid the price for a clumsy move in the heat of a three-man struggle in a World Cup quarter-final rather than for an act of wilful misconduct. His offence paled alongside Petit's two-footed lunge on Joe Cole for malice and potential for injury, and yet the Portugal midfielder saw only yellow.

Rooney's previous red cards, against Birmingham City while an Everton player and Villarreal in last season's ill-fated Champions' League campaign for United, were for a dangerous foul and dissent respectively. The third of his career, for attempting to fend off the attention of both Carvalho and Petit, was the first over which he could have legitimate complaint. Here, his reputation preceded him.

The young striker was relaxed and jovial before the game, but once Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo had let the quarter-final commence, he appeared intent on shedding his catalogue of torment at the hands of the Portuguese. England's opening attempts on goal both came from the striker's powerful right boot, the first blocked by Carvalho with goalkeeper Ricardo saving his second from distance on the volley. Even though Sven Goran Eriksson's men began brightly, their threat had to come through Rooney or not at all. He helped create two half chances for Frank Lampard in the opening half, despite receiving little close support from England's alternative attacking options, but squandered the finest opportunity for his 12th international goal when he sliced Aaron Lennon's pass across the area just two minutes before his World Cup collapsed.

All the arguments between the Football Association and Manchester United, all the work that Rooney had put in on the training ground and inside an oxygen tent to be present in Germany, and for this. All involved in the circus around England's World Cup campaign will be feeling short-changed. They should ask to be compensated with tickets for the first day of pre-season training at Manchester United, when Rooney will have an audience with Ronaldo.

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