Ahead of their opening World Cup game against Italy on Saturday, Wayne Rooney has declared England’s 2014 squad the best he’s ever been involved in with the national team.
Having made his international debut in 2003 at the age of 17, Rooney has played under managers Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello with England over the past decade, but believes Roy Hodgson’s current outfit surpasses any of those previous sides.
‘The younger players in the team are bringing a lot of energy and excitement,’ Rooney said. ‘It’s great to be a part of and I think it’s probably the best squad of players I’ve been involved in since I’ve been with England. I’m looking forward to this tournament and the future. It certainly looks bright.’
The recent introduction of youngsters Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw to the England setup, joining already promising options like Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson, has certainly added a great deal of optimism about the team’s chances in Brazil this summer.
They have a far from straightforward task progressing from Group D to the knockout stages, having to face both Uruguay and Costa Rica, along with the four-time world champions in Manaus, but it would likely still be a major disappointment were they not to at least equal their performance from four years ago in South Africa.
Rooney himself is coming off what’s been considered a largely lacklustre season with Manchester United, despite scoring 17 Premier League goals, and there have been calls from some for him to be dropped from Hodgson’s starting lineup after his subpar friendly performances.
Most recognise the 28-year-old’s undoubted potential to star on the big stage but, after failing to shine at both the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, as well has having recently been labelled past his peak by former teammate Paul Scholes, he still has a lot to prove to the football world this summer.
England’s all-time top scorer in World Cup qualifying, the youngsters in the squad have a lot of growth ahead of them but, for Rooney, this is a crucial point in his career.