Pele has backed Wayne Rooney to star for England at the FIFA World Cup™. Rooney has scored 39 goals for England, but he has never found the net at a World Cup despite featuring in South Africa and Germany. The England striker struggled for fitness and form prior to the squad's training camp in Miami, but Pele expects the 28-year-old to perform well in Brazil.
"Wayne Rooney has not scored [in a World Cup finals] but he was fantastic for the team," the three-time World Cup winner told Sky Sports News. "He was always the player who fought more for the team - I would like him in my team, you know!"
England start their campaign against Italy in Manaus on Saturday before taking on Uruguay and Costa Rica. It is a tough group, but Pele believes England should qualify. "England have a difficult group but I think they could pass," the Brazilian said. "The World Cup is a very short tournament and the experienced players always do well."
Group D opener at the Arena Amazonia reunites Italy and England, having face in the Three Lions' last match at a major international tournament two years ago. Then, the Azzurri triumphed on penalties, knocking Hodgson's side out at the quarter-final juncture of UEFA EURO 2012 after an uninspiring 0-0 draw in Kiev.
This, though, is a much more exciting unit and one which the England manager believes is far better placed to succeed - albeit he wants the highly-rated young players to be looked at with more hope than expectation. "I think it's very exciting," Hodgson said. "We have a lot of potential, we have a lot of excitement, a lot belief in this potential.
"But I must advise some kind of caution because, as you know, the players haven't had much chance in an England shirt to show that potential can be realised. I personally think it will be but, before we build people up too much and say how wonderful these young players are, let's see some very good performances in an England shirt first.
"We know they can do it, we believe they can do it, but let's just calm ourselves down a little bit before we start saying that we have world-beaters in our squad. To be a world-beater, you've got to put your international shirt on and play very well.
"I think we have more options [than at Euro 2012]. I think we certainly have more athleticism, we have more pace, more mobility. We have a lot of technical players. I certainly am not trying in any way to play down the fact the future looks quite bright and there are some very, very interesting times ahead for us, I'm sure."