Soccer

England boss Southgate has Rooney lesson to learn ahead of USA clash

Maguire opens up on criticism ahead of England v USA at World Cup

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England have tested Harry Kane and are convinced he’s ready to start tonight’s World Cup showdown with USA. The Tottenham striker sustained damage to his ankle in his country’s stirring 6-2 win over Iran on Monday, worrying the nation in the process. And though the temptation to start him is no doubt tempting, Wayne Rooney is proof that sometimes it isn’t always worth the risk…

It has certainly been a good World Cup for England so far.

They were outstanding in their opening win over Iran, with a brace from Bukayo Saka and further goals from Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish giving them lift-off in Qatar.

To make matters even better, some of the Three Lions’ main rivals for the golden gong are already at risk of crashing out of the competition.

Argentina fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, despite Lionel Messi scoring an early penalty in their showdown on Tuesday.

And Germany started their campaign poorly, too, with Japan beating them by the same scoreline earlier in the week.

For tonight’s match with USA, Kane is expected to start. Southgate confirmed his talisman was ready to play, saying: “Harry is fine. He has worked slightly separately from the group but all good for Friday night.

“He had a scan [on Wednesday] to make sure everything is fine.”

But England must beware making the same mistakes of previous tournaments, with Rooney certainly a warning.

The Manchester United legend, who manages DC United these days, was the country’s golden boy during his playing days.

He burst onto the scene at the European Championships in 2004, netting four goals – with only Milan Baros of the Czech Republic managing more.

But that would be as good as it got for Rooney at major tournaments, with injuries often hampering him.

Prior to the 2006 World Cup, the striker had broken three metatarsals while playing for United in a 3-0 victory over Chelsea.

It meant he was facing a race against time to play and he eventually did, featuring for the Three Lions in their five games in the competition.

But Rooney, it was clear, wouldn’t be replacing the heroics of his form at Euro 2004.

He played through the pain but it was to the detriment of the Three Lions. In the end, his rage would boil over when he received his marching orders for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho as England crashed out at the hands of Portugal.

Rooney, speaking in 2020, admitted he shouldn’t have put himself on the frontline when it was clear he wasn’t able to operate at the peak of his powers.

“Looking back, I should never have gone to that World Cup,” he said. “Of course it’s hindsight.

“Back then I was 20, it was my first World Cup and there was so much expectation on me.”

Four years later, it was a similar story.

Rooney was in the form of his life for United, stepping up following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid with 34 goals across all competitions.

But another injury meant he went into the tournament lacking sharpness and it was abundantly clear he shouldn’t have gone, right from the very off.

Rooney wouldn’t score in South Africa and England, once again, underwhelmed as they exited at the hands of fierce rivals Germany.

While Kane seems fine to play, Southgate must consider his options.

What if he aggravates his knock? While Callum Wilson is a good deputy to have, he’s not a player of Kane’s calibre – with all due respect to the Newcastle star.

Obviously, starting Kane is tempting. Win tonight, and England are through to the knockout stages of the competition for the second time on the trot.

But Kane is precious and history suggests Southgate would be wise to show caution when it comes to such a crucial matter.

England and USA drew 1-1 when they last met at the World Cup back in 2010. 

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