As followers across the world saw yesterday in the Spain vs. Netherlands contest, an overpowering attack is no match for pace and controlling possession. Today, when England faced Italy in the 2014 World Cup, Wayne Rooney could have been sharper.
He did have a rather exquisite cross into the box that set up teammate Daniel Sturridge for the Three Lions‘ only score of the game, but Rooney could have done more. Three glaring opportunities were not seized by the Manchester United star.
Down 2-1 in the 62nd minute, Rooney received a pass inside the box. He took a few steps to his right and struck the ball wide of the left post. He was not marked all that closely, and he did have a clear line to the goal. One would think that a premier striker should have no issue at least testing the keeper on that try, but his errant shot did nothing of the sort. English manager Roy Hodgson‘s face was shown on the replay, and his expression did not assure the viewer of a calm demeanor. It was a missed golden opportunity, and Hodgson clearly knew his squad should have had an equalizer there.
Still down a goal, Rooney had a corner in the 76th minute. He failed to take advantage of this situation as well. His ball did not even end up in play, but a solid five to seven yards behind Italy’s net out of bounds. It surely must have been an embarrassing moment for Rooney.
Finally, in the 87th minute with time winding down, Rooney had another strong chance for an equalizer. He received the ball approximately 23 yards away from the goal line unmarked, and struck the ball miles above the crossbar. Again, he failed to challenge Italian keeper Salvatore Sirigu.
If England is to play from behind in this tournament, they best have a striker at the top of his game who is eager and prepared to answer with a goal of his own. Rooney played well, but not well enough to carry his team to a victory, or even a draw. If England hopes to do damage in the knockout rounds, or even advance from the group stages, Rooney must be a large part of the solution moving forward against Uruguay and the suddenly surging Costa Rica. Good will not get the job done — Rooney must be great.