Wazza has a checkered history at major tournaments. England’s golden boy-cum-enfant terrible has thrived there just as he has underperformed. It all depends on how much the club season has taken out of him. Or if there's yet another brewing tabloid scandal involving him and distracting him from the task at hand. But at his best, Rooney makes all of the countrymen surrounding him a lot better.
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One shining moment on home soil in 1966 looms large over a procession of exits in the final eight or the final 16. Every subsequent team fails to stand up to Sir Alfred Ernest Ramsey's magical side and prompts withering criticism for its inability to do so. The last three tournaments -- quarterfinals in 2002 and 2006, round of 16 in 2010 -- portray a more accurate picture of the current landscape, although England went close in 1990 when they were knocked out of the semifinals by West Germany.
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Sometimes a major tournament comes at entirely the wrong time. Of England’s golden generation, only Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard remain, and they are 33 and 35, respectively, and can no longer be counted on to shoulder the entire load. In the meantime, a gifted batch of midfielders and attackers has pushed through, highlighted by Jack Wilshere (22), Ross Barkley (20), Raheem Sterling (19), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (20) and Daniel Sturridge (24), who are supported by a few others with significant promise. But they probably aren’t quite ready to take command of a World Cup campaign. And so England find themselves in some kind of purgatory, which isn’t helped by the injury to winger Theo Walcott (25) and Ox's uncertain status. Further complicating things is manager Roy Hodgson. The 66-year-old is of the old-school hurly-burly English style – lots of crosses, and even more toil, but he will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation at these finals a break from the usual two banks of four.
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How they got here
Hodgson's side received a forgiving draw in Group H and toiled through it nevertheless. The end product - six wins, four draws and a one-point margin over second place Ukraine - achieved the end goal without instilling much in the way of confidence.
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Brutal. When he realized that his side had been lumped into Group D with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, Football Association chairman Greg Dyke couldn’t help himself from controversially pretend-cutting his own throat with a finger. The English were in an uproar about this, of course, but the gesture was no less on the mark for it.
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Round of 16 prospects
Manageable. If England survive the group stage, which is a big if, they’ll cross over with Group C, which consists of Colombia, Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan. The trick there is to avoid Colombia. But even that’s a task that shouldn’t trouble the English too much.
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Little evidence exists to suggest substantial improvement from previous tournaments. Hodgson's mundane, if solid, tactical approach to team-building, the lacking yard of pace in central defense and the suspect work in possession leave England a bit short against the very best sides. Rooney, however, remains a potential match-winner in the right frame of mind. He will need ample support from elsewhere to muster the expected exit somewhere between the group stage and the quarterfinals. Time for the likes of Danny Welbeck to deliver the goods.