England banks on Rooney for World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Aprooney1.jpg' class='caption'> Wayne Rooney will either beat two defenders at a time and fire powerful long-range shots for memorable goals in World Cup 2006.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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Don't expect Wayne Rooney to have a quiet World Cup. The England striker will either beat two defenders at a time and fire powerful long-range shots for memorable goals, or he will rant and rave at opponents and referees and storm off the field in a red-card rage. There's no in between for a 20-year-old star who thrills the fans with his dribbling skills and shooting prowess. Rooney doesn't go through games playing so-so passes and staying away from the action. In the news Rooney, who plays for Manchester United, is one of the game's biggest headliners. His problem is staying on the field. Only weeks after becoming the youngest Premier League scorer at age 16, he was the youngest to be sent off. This season, he was ejected in a Champions League game for sarcastically applauding the referee. When he drew a yellow card for a foul which meant suspension from a World Cup match in October, he began muttering expletives at England captain David Beckham, who was trying to calm him down. Despite his volatile temper, when the World Cup starts in Germany next year, he will be England's biggest hope of leading it to the trophy for the first time in 40 years. England, picked as one of the eight seeds on Tuesday for the World Cup, will find out who it will play in the first round during Friday's draw in Leipzig, Germany. Spectacular goalscorer Rooney, powerfully built and barely out of his teens, has been scoring spectacular goals since he was 16. On debut for Everton against Arsenal he collected the ball well outside the area, turned past two defenders, and unleashed a 25-meter shot which flashed past the goalkeeper for the winning goal. Rooney scored four goals for England at the 2004 European Championship before a broken foot put him out of the competition. When his fitness returned, he had moved on to Manchester United and made his debut in the Champions League with three goals in a 6-2 rout of Turkish club Fenerbahce. Global fan club His fan club has spread around the world, and the youngster from the back streets of Liverpool is receiving comparisons with Pele and Maradona. "He has the potential to be a legendary player," said Brazilian great Zico, who coached Japan to the 2006 World Cup finals. "One of Pele's great qualities was that he could take any situation in his stride. From (what) I have seen of Wayne, I think he can do that, too," Zico said. "Great players have the habit of always being able to rise to the big occasions. Like Pele used to, they puff out their chests and show the world who is in charge." Former England coach Glenn Hoddle, one of the most creative players to wear the national team shirt, compared Rooney with Maradona and Michel Platini, the man who transformed France into a European champion in the mid-80s. "He's an extra special player. What he does is raise the standard, that's what Platini did for France and Maradona for Argentina," Hoddle said. "If you look at every team to win the World Cup they have an extra-special player who can lift the team. We had Bobby Charlton in 1966. A player who can lift us to another level." Eyes on World Cup Rooney has scored 11 goals in 28 appearances for England, although he surprisingly didn't hit the target in the team's 10 qualifying games. But he has the ability to create chances for his teammates, plays instinctive first-time passes, and has recently added some defensive qualities to his game. Rooney, who scored in England's 3-2 friendly victory over Argentina in Geneva on Nov. 12, isn't worried he didn't score during World Cup qualifying, and believes he will make up for that when the championship comes around. "I hope I am storing the goals up for next summer," he said. (AP)

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