5. Wayne wangs one in against Brazil (2013)
It was a fine way to spoil a party. Brazil were revving up for their long-awaited World Cup on home soil by playing England in the shiny re-opened Maracana – the scene of a famous Three Lions 2-0 victory in 1984.
England were soundly outplayed in this re-run 29 years later, but managed to peg back Fred’s second-half strike with an equaliser from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose father Mark had played in England’s ‘84 triumph.
And then came Wazza. Collecting possession from James Milner well away from goal, the England captain drove forward before unleashing a beautifully struck effort which kissed the back of Brazil’s Fernando and flew into the net. England held their lead for only three minutes as the hosts came back to claim a 2-2 draw – but it was nice while it lasted.
4. Breaks World Cup jinx (2014)
It was the monkey on his back. Going into Brazil 2014, Rooney was without a World Cup goal having fired blanks in 2006 and 2010 – and after England’s tournament opener against Italy, that remained the case.
Roy Hodgson’s side couldn’t afford defeat to Uruguay in their second encounter, but it looked like things were heading that way with 15 minutes remaining in Sao Paulo. That was until Rooney gave the Three Lions hope, when he jabbed home a 75th-minute equaliser from close range to end his World Cup hoodoo.
Of course, those frenzied celebrations didn’t last long. England being England, they were staring at a premature group stage exit six minutes from time when Luis Suarez grabbed a second goal and condemned Roy’s boys to defeat. Urgh.
3. England seal deal against Poland (2013)
To get to the Brazil World Cup in the first place, England had to get through games like this. The Three Lions needed maximum points from their final two qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland to assure their place in South America – and the first half of that job was complete after a 4-1 victory over the former (Rooney scored the first to set England on their way).
At Wembley, England needed to beat Poland to gain automatic promotion - and it was Rooney who once again scored the all-important, deadlock-breaking goal with a header after 41 minutes. Steven Gerrard scored in the second half to cap a dominant England display.
Of course, things did not go to plan in the tournament itself - but it’s worth mentioning Rooney’s record in qualifiers. This was his seventh goal in just six World Cup 2014 matches. For all the talk that - outside of Euro 2004 - he didn’t shine for England in a major tournament, he was consistently prolific in qualifying matches. Frankly, without Rooney scoring key goals such as this and many others, we’re not even sure England would have got to some of these tournaments.
2. Breaking Sir Bobby’s record (2015)
It’s a good job that Sir Bobby Charlton is such a fine gentleman. If he was a more selfish type, he’d have good reason to be seriously irked by Wayne Rooney, the player who broke his England goalscoring record in 2015, then followed that up by surpassing his Manchester United total in 2017.
Instead, Sir Bobby was one of the first people on the phone to congratulate Rooney after he netted this penalty against Switzerland at Wembley. In truth, it was hardly a crucial strike. England had already qualified for Euro 2016 thanks to a 6-0 win over San Marino a few days earlier – the game where Rooney had drawn level with Sir Bobby.
Yet there was understandable relief and joy as Rooney held his composure to lash this penalty home to seal a 2-0 England win. Not only had he broken a record which had stood for 45 years, but he’d reached a half century of international goals before he’d even hit 30. Not too shabby.
1. Taking apart Croatia (2004)
If the 16-year-old Rooney made his name domestically with that wonder-goal against Arsenal, it was Euro 2004 that made him a global star. Aged 18, Rooney played with livewire menace throughout the tournament. He was a threat in England’s group opener loss to France, became the youngest scorer in European Championship history with a brace in England’s 3-0 win over Switzerland, but his best display was in the final group game against Croatia.
Playing with the freedom of an unintimidated youngster already coming to the peak of his powers, Rooney made two superb goals - smashing one in from outside the area, then playing a one-two and racing clear to score - look like the most natural thing in the world.
England won the match 4-2, playing some fine attacking football, but it all went wrong soon after. In the quarter-final against Portugal, Rooney cracked a metatarsal (those things again) and had to come off injured after just 27 minutes. England lost the eventual penalty shoot-out (those things again) and were out. Yet the memory of a teenage England tyro setting the tournament alight and putting fear into Europe’s finest lives long in the memory.
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