Glenn Moore: Rooney vows to keep playing with a 'little bit of temper'

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It may have been England's biggest victory on foreign soil in any European Championship finals but their 3-0 despatch of Switzerland on Thursday did not answer all the doubts about Sven Goran Eriksson's team.

It may have been England's biggest victory on foreign soil in any European Championship finals but their 3-0 despatch of Switzerland on Thursday did not answer all the doubts about Sven Goran Eriksson's team.

Defensively, especially from set-pieces, they appeared uncertain and the midfield is still to master the most crucial art in football at this level, ball retention. In attack, Wayne Rooney's explosive impact cannot entirely obscure Michael Owen's failure to reach his own high standards. The performance was good enough to defeat an ordinary Swiss team but England may have reason to be grateful they need only a draw against the improving Croatians in the Estadio da Luz on Monday to qualify for the knock-out stages.

Yesterday Eriksson was unperturbed. He recognised the performance could have been sharper but was pleased at the way it improved as the game went on. He remains confident of progressing and his belief is buoyed by the knowledge that, Nicky Butt excepted, everyone is fit.

The match dissected and injuries checked, the conversation, inevitably, turned to an 18-year-old. "He is one of the best I've ever had because he is ready," said Eriksson of Wayne Rooney. "As a manager you normally have to protect and talk to a young player, you are afraid the pressure is too much and they will have a bad game. Not with Rooney. He doesn't seem to need protecting. He is not nervous or worried about who he is playing. He is an adult on and off the pitch. It is fantastic."

Rooney himself denied he was preternaturally calm. The Everton striker said: "People may say nothing seems to faze me but I am a young lad. I get nervous before games like everyone else but as you get into the game you become a bit more relaxed."

"The players are better at this level so you have to try and be clever," Rooney added. "I think I have had the responsibility of trying to frighten teams since I came into the side but I just like to go out there and enjoy myself."

The only negative was Rooney's caution for a late challenge on Jorg Stiel, the Swiss goalkeeper. He was unrepentant. "The ball was there to be won. I went in for a 50-50 challenge and I was a bit late. A few of the lads told me to calm down but I was going into a tackle and I give 110 per cent. What do people want me to do? I am not going to give 90 per cent."

Kieron Dyer, who was watching from the bench before coming on, said: "You can't tell Wayne not to go in the way he does. It would stop his game. I have that with Craig Bellamy at Newcastle. If Craig is quiet and moping around and not moaning at the referee he's not the same player. People might wind him up but that only makes him more dangerous."

"I like to play with a little bit of a temper," agreed Rooney. "I think it gives me an edge and makes me play better. I am not going to stop just because I am playing in a major tournament. I am going to carry on and do what I do best."

Fortunately for Rooney there will be a card amnesty after the group stages are concluded unless a player has incurred a suspension. Thus if Rooney, or the other players on a caution, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes, are booked against Croatia they will miss any putative quarter-final. However, any single yellow cards against a player's name will not be carried over.

Rooney's form has highlighted Owen's apparent lack of it but Dyer thought the younger man's emergence might help the Liverpool player as it would force defences to divide their attentions. "Wayne may have benefited from being relatively unknown until now but he'll be a marked man against Croatia," said Dyer. "That may give Michael more space. It's just a matter of time before he starts banging in the goals as well."

Rooney added: "I don't have any sympathy for Michael because he doesn't need it. It's a team game and not just about one player. He set my goal up and I am sure he'll be happy if we win the next game and he doesn't score."

Eriksson agreed: "He was better on Thursday than against France. I think, I hope, Owen is coming."

The England coach also convincingly dismissed suggestions that he had bowed to player-power. "I am in charge," he said. "I talked to the players. I always listen to the players. If you think you know everything because you are manager it is a big mistake. You have to be sure the players understand and accept what you are doing.

"The first time I asked them their opinion, three years ago, they were unsure and did not want to talk to me. Now they do but they did not come to me on Wednesday. Absolutely not."

Eriksson added that, after consulting the midfield quartet on Wednesday evening, he decided that night to retain the flat midfield four. He explained: "We practised, as always, both systems, the ones we have used for two-and-a-half years. The four had gone very well against France and Iceland but in some ways it would have suited us to play the diamond because of the way Switzerland play. In practice the diamond did not work very well so I was not sure. I called them in and talked to them."

Player-power? or astute management? This correspondent inclines to the latter view. Eriksson is a modern man-manager who knows it makes sense to take the players' views into account. Bobby Robson did and reached the World Cup semi-final in 1990. Glenn Hoddle did not and was knocked out in the second round. The final decision, said Steven Gerrard, remains Eriksson's. "He picks the team and the formations. We go with what he wants."

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