If Italia 90 is remembered in England as Gazza’s tournament, there are high hopes that Brazil 2014 will go down in history as ‘Wazza’s.’
Wayne Rooney, as he is better known, has already surpassed the achievements of the talented maverick Paul Gascoigne in all ways bar one – he has yet to light up a FIFA World Cup™ with his talent. The signs are that this could be the year for the 28-year-old Liverpudlian, who was England’s top scorer with seven goals in qualifying.
It is now over a decade since Rooney burst on to the scene, thrilling the fans of his boyhood favourites Everton with his prodigious gifts. He was 16 but could do just about anything with his strength, pace, vision and dribbling ability. His first Premier League goal summed up his ‘let-me-at-’em’ attitude: a thumping 30-yard last-minute strike that ended champions Arsenal’s 30-game unbeaten run.
Rooney soon became his country’s youngest player when making his senior debut at 17 years and 111 days in a February 2003 friendly against Australia. He made international football look like child’s play, becoming England’s youngest scorer with a goal in a UEFA EURO 2004 qualifier against FYR Macedonia seven months later.
Utterly fearless, the 18-year-old Rooney took Europe by storm when unleashed at the ensuing finals in Portugal. He registered four goals and might have inflicted more damage but for the fractured metatarsal he sustained with England leading Portugal in a quarter-final they eventually lost on penalties.
By the time Rooney had recovered, he was a Manchester United player following his August 2004 switch to Old Trafford for a £27m fee. He rose to the occasion once more on his United debut, hitting a hat-trick against Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League. His talent was without question yet there were doubts over his temperament and they resurfaced to unhappy effect at the FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Rooney had rushed back from another metatarsal injury to take his place in England’s squad but he was not at his best and another quarter-final against Portugal ended prematurely for him – albeit this time with a red card for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho. Four years on from Gelsenkirchen, Rooney had a forgettable tournament in South Africa, failing to score and criticising England fans who booed the team off against Algeria.
He captained England for the first time in a Doha friendly against Brazil and is now England’s all-time scorer in competitive internationals. At Manchester United he has won five Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
For all his star quality, he still works tirelessly for his team and no defence will look forward to facing him in Brazil.