Euro Cup 2016: Wayne Rooney no longer lonely at the top with England

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Euro Cup 2016: Wayne Rooney no longer lonely at the top with England

England captain Wayne Rooney says that he is more relaxed than at any previous major tournament because he no longer feels like the only match-winner in the squad. The Manchester United skipper will equal David Beckham’s record of 115 caps for an England outfield player when Roy Hodgson’s side tackle minnows Iceland in the Euro 2016 last 16 in Nice on Monday.

With Rooney playing in midfield, the onus is now on strikers like Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge to score and, while England have struggled in front of goal, their captain believes that they have more players capable of deciding games than at any time in his 13-year international career. “I have always gone into a tournament thinking if I don’t play at my best, I cannot see us winning it,” he confided to reporters at England’s Chantilly media centre on Thursday.

“I have come into this tournament and we have players capable of doing magical things. “We are different, but we have match-winners. We have five or six match-winners in our team and I cannot say we have always had that.” As England embark upon the knockout rounds in France, the spectre of penalties now looms and Rooney revealed that he is going to great lengths in training to ensure that he is ready in the event of a shootout.

“Whatever corner I am going for, I tell the goalkeeper, so that makes it harder for me,” he said. “If he can’t save it, despite knowing which way I am going, there are no worries for me in taking them.” Opposition goalkeepers can meddle with a penalty-taker’s focus, however, as Rooney discovered when he came up against Italy great Gianluigi Buffon in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012. “I always know which way I’m going and Buffon was actually pointing and telling me he knows I’m going that way,” Rooney recalled. “He was right, so then I started wondering if I should go the other way.”

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