Wayne Rooney: I don’t take my place in England team for granted, I work hard to earn it
Forward's starting place has come in question after performance against Italy
Wayne Rooney has hit back at criticism that he takes his place in the England team for granted and said he will have to work hard to be in the side to face Uruguay on Thursday, when Roy Hodgson’s team face a defining game in Sao Paulo to stay in the tournament following defeat to Italy on Saturday night.
Asked whether he expected to play as a matter of course for England, Rooney said that was not the case. “I don’t expect to play,” he said. “I work hard. I want to play.”
He denied that he had taken his place for granted. “I’ve never felt that,” he said. “I don’t know why you said that. Why would I feel my place in the team is guaranteed? I work hard to try and get into that team. I have never said my place is guaranteed.”
Played on the left wing in the first half of the 2-1 defeat to Italy, Rooney was switched to the right at half-time and had just one meaningful chance to score, a right-foot shot that he struck wide.
Asked whether playing wide got the best from him, Rooney said: “I don’t know. I enjoyed the game. Obviously, we lost the game but I was involved in the game, could have scored, created the goal and felt I had an influence, although we lost the game.
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“I felt absolutely fine. The weather was not an issue, so that’s down to the manager. Obviously, he will see over the next couple of days how the lads are and will make his decision from there.”
Asked whether it was a case of “do or die” for England in their second group game against Uruguay, beaten 3-1 by Costa Rica on Saturday, Rooney said: “I think it will. We know if we lose the game we are more or less out, so we have to be positive and go at it in some ways the way we did [against Italy].“We went at Italy. I think we lost the two goals at a bad time, really, and we couldn’t quite recover from the second one. But we will certainly give it a good go.”
The England squad flew back to Rio de Janeiro after the game and will be back at their Urca training ground this morning to begin preparation for the Uruguay match.
Paul Scholes, who had previously suggested that Rooney might need to be dropped during the tournament, said that his former Manchester United team-mate had been played out of position.
Scholes wrote in his sponsored blog: “I don’t blame Wayne one little bit but he was played in three different positions.
“He’s without a doubt England’s best goalscorer (his record in qualifying showed that: seven goals). But he was played on the left, played on the right, then in the centre. Where’s the confidence in Wayne to say: ‘You’re our main player, You’re our centre-forward’? If he plays there, he scores goals.”
Rooney (left) and Gerrard leave the pitch in Manaus Hodgson said the players and staff would not abandon their plans, having lost the crucial first game of the tournament. “We won’t panic,” the England coach said. “We will try to cheer the players up, show them some of the things in the game that were very good and, of course, address some of the issues that need to be addressed.
“But in my time with the national team, I have got to say that is the most positive performance in many ways that I have seen from us. It gives me great hope going forward, not just for the next two games, but even further than that.”
Hodgson said that his team had to be “a bit more ruthless” in front of goal. “We have to make sure we score from those chances. Had we scored two or three goals I don’t think anybody could say, ‘You were lucky there, you didn’t create many chances’. We created plenty of chances.”
Captain Steven Gerrard said England could still qualify for the knockout stages. “Listen, it’s a defeat. I understand if the supporters are disappointed with a defeat. The players are as well. But there are two games left and we are more than capable of getting six points and coming out of this group,” he said.
“I think the fans will be really pleased with large chunks of that game. I certainly am, as captain of the team.
“Now we dust ourselves down and move forward. We’re certainly down but we’re not out.”
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