Rooney makes apology as Eriksson surveys wreckage

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The Independent Football

As Sven Goran Eriksson sifted through the wreckage of a dismal night in Madrid, England's head coach had one major reason for satisfaction. "I'm very happy it was a friendly," he said as he assessed his team's performance.

As Sven Goran Eriksson sifted through the wreckage of a dismal night in Madrid, England's head coach had one major reason for satisfaction. "I'm very happy it was a friendly," he said as he assessed his team's performance.

Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat against Spain left the Swede with many problems to ponder in the three months between now and the next international. It was hard to think of a single player who emerged with any credit, especially those who have been regarded as the team's key men.

David Beckham, the captain, performed woefully again, Michael Owen made little headway against defenders he is now facing on a regular basis with Real Madrid, Frank Lampard and Nicky Butt chased shadows in midfield, Ashley Cole was given the run-around by the excellent Joaquin and the team showed a collective lack of discipline as tempers boiled over. Above all, Wayne Rooney displayed the maturity of a playground tearaway.

Eriksson found it hard to work out what had got into the head of a player who has lit up English football in the last year with his outstanding talent. After Rooney had made a series of reckless challenges and unprovoked lunges, the coach did him a huge favour by substituting him before half-time and saving him from the inevitability of a red card. Even then the Manchester United striker disgraced himself, hurling to the ground the black armband England players had been wearing in memory of Emlyn Hughes and refusing to shake hands with his replacement, Alan Smith.

While Eriksson was pleased that Rooney had apologised to himself and Smith after the game and insisted he was "not worried" about the young striker, he said he would be talking to him about his behaviour. "I think on these occasions it's better to wait a little bit," Eriksson said. "I am not going to wait three months [until England's next game]. He has to learn. Maybe I will speak to him on the way home."

Eriksson could not explain the push on Iker Casillas, which earned Rooney a booking. "I really don't know why he did that," Eriksson said. "There was so much hot temper out there from both sides in the first half. It was not a friendly at all and we forgot to play football."

He added: "I think he was frustrated and that's why it happened. It's almost the first time with England. He learned a lot here."

Eriksson was asked whether Rooney's age was a factor. "Exactly," he said. "It was his first time in a stadium like this. Normally he is very cool. I would say that it [Rooney's age] is an excuse for me. He's playing for a big club and he will learn a lot of things. He should use his temperament in the right way and I think he will do that."

Asier Del Horno, Spain's goalscorer, thought Rooney had acted out of frustration. "Rooney lost it because he was running around after the ball all through the first half, and it is hard when you have to put up with the 'oles' of the public," the Athletic Bilbao defender said.

Although the quality of the opposition meant this could not be regarded as England's worst display under Eriksson - the 3-1 defeat at home to Australia was more humiliating - it emphasised his poor record in friendlies. While England have been beaten only three times in competitive matches under him, including one defeat on penalties, they have now lost six friendlies, to the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Sweden and Spain.

Eriksson thought that the pre-match focus on racism might have distracted his team. "I don't know if it was because we talked too much before the game about things that have nothing to do with football. I never saw us that nervous on the pitch before. I was very disappointed with the first half. Our shape was too stretched."

One of Rooney's frustrations must have been the lack of service from midfield, where Xavi controlled the game with great panache, but the whole team looked disjointed. Marca, one of the leading Spanish sports dailies, gave every England outfield player from the starting line-up a mark of zero out of three, except marks of one for Rio Ferdinand, Butt and Wayne Bridge. It was hard to see what those three - and Butt in particular - had done to rise above the mediocrity. And as far as Rooney was concerned you wondered what he had done to deserve even nought.

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