• World Cup

Hodgson defends under-fire Rooney

ESPN staff
June 15, 2014
Wayne Rooney provided the cross for England's equaliser © Getty Images

Roy Hodgson has come to the defence of Wayne Rooney after he was criticised for his performance in England's opening World Cup defeat to Italy in Manaus.

Rooney started the match on the left wing and was moved to the right later, only appearing in something like his preferred role through the middle very late in the game. He provided a fine cross for Daniel Sturridge's equaliser but failed to make the impact he would have liked and was criticised for his defensive work.

He cut a frustrated figure and, far from silencing his critics as manager Roy Hodgson had urged him to, Rooney now faces suggestions that he may be dropped for Thursday's vital Group D game against Uruguay.

Italy were fitter - Prandelli

Raheem Sterling was one of several England players to suffer from cramp © Getty Images
  • Italy coach Cesare Prandelli claims his players coped better than England with the hot and humid conditions in Manaus. Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Gary Cahill were among those who suffered from cramp as they failed to cope with temperatures around 27 degrees centigrade and humidity at 74% in the Amazonian City.
  • Click here to read more

"It is harsh to say he didn't look comfortable on the left," Hodgson said. "I thought he did quite well and he set up our goal. It is looking for things to say he didn't play well in that position because I think he did.

"There's always going to be one player who there's a big debate around but it's harsh to criticise Rooney's performance."

Raheem Sterling was given a surprise start, with Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck making up England's forward line and Hodgson explained why Rooney was not made the main man in attack.

"We wanted to get Sterling around because of his agility and that meant moving Rooney," said Hodgson, who conceded that Rooney and Leighton Baines had been exposed on England's left in the first half. "He worked very hard and did well also when we brought him back into the centre."

Former England captain Alan Shearer lead the criticism of Rooney's performance, telling the BBC: "Baines did not get much protection in front of him and, whether or not they targeted England's left-side as a weak link or not, the reason Italy won the game was because their right flank was their strong point.

"There are not too many people who would not have started with Baines in this game. He was let down by a lack of protection in front of him [from Rooney]. When that happens, you are going to have a tough night.

"There are things to work on defensively because down that left-hand side we had big problems. Rooney was not enjoying his role there in the first half because he was having to work so hard."

Rooney carved an opening for himself early in the second half and appeared to have most of the goal clear to aim at from short range but managed to drag his shot wide, prompting Hodgson to cover his face with his hands.

Shearer said: "Rooney had his chance and he failed to take it. At this level, in a World Cup, you only get maybe one chance in a game and you have to score. Balotelli had one chance, one goal.

"You see what happens with [Arjen] Robben and [Robin] van Persie when they get a chance [in the Netherlands' 5-1 win against Spain on Friday]. They scored. That is what you have to do at this level.

"Wayne might not get a better chance than he had in this game. He won't sleep when he looks back at it. You have got to score those chances.

"You can never criticise his work rate, he gives it everything he has. He was really uncomfortable on the left hand side, even though he set up the goal for Sturridge brilliantly."

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