England manager Roy Hodgson is disappointed by what he regards as national "obsession" with Wayne Rooney.
Daniel Sturridge scored a stunning goal to help England to a 3-0 win over Peru on Friday night, but once again the focus fell on Rooney after he put in a below-par display.
Ever since Rooney burst on to the scene as an 18-year-old with four goals at Euro 2004, the English public has pinned its hopes on the Liverpool-born striker every time a major tournament comes around.
In 2006, leading politicians, celebrities and footballers prayed for Rooney’s return from a metatarsal injury, while four years later, an ankle injury in the build-up to the World Cup caused panic among the masses of fans who idolise the Manchester United striker.
Hodgson was full of praise for Rooney after the Peru victory, hailing the 28-year-old’s drive, commitment and energy in a briefing for Sunday newspapers.
So the England manager became agitated when the subject of Rooney, and how he did not perform as well as his replacement Raheem Sterling, was first topic on the agenda.
"I think it’s a bit sad that the country is so Wayne Rooney-obsessed," Hodgson said.
"I don’t think Wayne sets himself up to be anything other than a very important member of the squad who tries his best at all times.
"We work as a team but certainly we don’t have the same obsession with Wayne, or Daniel Sturridge.
"It’s a little bit infuriating to see players who have come on in the last 10 or 15 minutes of a game when it’s over and there are loads of spaces and the opposition are on their knees compared to players who are on the pitch when opponents are very fit and determined to keep you at bay, throwing themselves into challenges."
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes questioned whether Hodgson would have the gumption to drop Rooney if the striker, who is yet to score at a World Cup, does not produce the goods.
Interestingly, Hodgson failed to name Rooney as one of his definite starters for England’s Group D opener against Italy in Manaus on June 14.
"In the back positions we have a pretty clear idea of what we want," Hodgson said when asked if he knew how his team would line up versus the Azzurri.
"Once you get past Steven Gerrard in midfield, there are five positions to fill.
"I think there are plenty of options there and we could do well with a number of those options."
As it stands, it would be unthinkable for Hodgson to drop Rooney for the Italy game.
The England manager’s main problem is getting the United hitman to click with Sturridge as part of a front two or as part of a three-pronged attack with another forward player like Sterling or Danny Welbeck, who was poor against Peru.
Another option open to Hodgson is playing Rickie Lambert.
The 32-year-old has had an unforgettable year. He scored on his England debut against Scotland last August before booking his place on the plane to Brazil after scoring 14 goals for Southampton.
That return has caused Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to move for the Kirkby-born striker in a shock £4million deal.
Hodgson thinks Lambert will head to Miami full of confidence after moving to the club he has supported all his life.
"He is very happy, I am happy for him and I congratulate Liverpool on signing a good player," Hodgson said of the former Rochdale frontman.
"I am sure that on (Wednesday) when he plays against Ecuador you will see a fella’ running around with all the joy that his heart can muster because he is very happy to be here with England and he is very happy that the move to Liverpool has gone through."
England land in Florida just after midnight on Sunday.
Hodgson hopes to give all his squad a run-out in the two final games before they head to Brazil.
"I will make certain that every member of the squad has at least played some football before we get to (face) Italy," he said.