England were bested by a familiar foe last night, as old nemesis Wayne Rooney once again thwarted the Three Lions’ best-laid plans.
A brave England performance against Italy ultimately brought no reward, despite a fine Daniel Sturridge goal after Rooney briefly seemed to forget who he was. That aberration aside, the 28-year old was his typical self, as wave after wave of England attacks foundered on Rooney’s rock-like head or crashed off his immovable feet.
Despite all their hard work and invention, Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck seemed incapable of bypassing the Manchester United star, who was ably assisted by Steven Gerrard and his ability to hit a pass to any blade of grass on the pitch, whether he was intending to or not.
“Rooney caused us a lot of problems out there, but I can’t see how we could have stopped that happening,” said manager Roy Hodgson. “It’s not like I can wave a magic wand and make him disappear off the field.”
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli agreed that the £300,000-a-week star had been crucial to his team’s victory.
“Last night you saw one team with Rooney and one team without Rooney, and that was the difference between the sides,” he told FourFourTwo. “Rooney offers something else, but we don’t have a word for that thing in Italian.”
For his part, Hodgson acknowledged that the Rooney-inspired result was a blow, but he insisted on staying positive.
“We have to look ahead to Uruguay and Costa Rica now,” he said, “Though I have a horrible feeling that Rooney will still be standing in our way.”
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