Flawed kings hold the age

Flawed kings hold the age
Luis Suarez (right) has promised something special against England. The striker netted 31 goals in the English Premier League for Liverpool last season to win the Golden Boot.

Two men, one mission - redemption. When Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez clash at the Sao Paulo Arena (3am, tomorrow, Singapore time), a lot more than the fate of their teams is at stake.

With both England and Uruguay needing a win to keep their Brazil World Cup futures alive, this Group D clash will have a "winner takes all" feel to it.

But for the two men who already shoulder so much of their nation's hopes, Rooney and Suarez carry an extra, unwanted burden, one they hope to have shaken off at the end of the 90 minutes.

For Rooney, it is the threat of being labelled the biggest flop in World Cup history.

His abysmal World Cup Finals record of zero goals in nine matches baffles the mind, considering he scored 16 goals in total as he helped England qualify for the 2010 and 2014 finals. In total, he has 39 international goals to his name and is tipped to overtake Bobby Charlton (49 goals) as England's all-time leading scorer.

Yet, strangely, his scoring touch has deserted him on the biggest stage. In England's opener against Italy last week, his assist for the Three Lions' only goal in the 1-2 defeat was overshadowed by another subdued performance, remembered for a bad miss from 10m and a mis-hit corner-kick.

The English media questioned if he was playing out of position on the left, with some pundits even wondering if he should be dropped from the first team.

Rooney's response was to request for extra training with England's reserves on Monday while the first-team squad had a lighter session. But when that led to speculation that his outing with the second-stringers meant a reduced role in the Uruguay game, he took to Facebook to defend himself.

"I sometimes wonder what the press are getting at," Rooney posted. "I said from the start I want to do everything I can to make sure I'm ready for these World Cup games and as part of that I was doing extra training a week before the squad joined up. That's exactly what I did yesterday, my own extra training because that's what I wanted to do."

It was a rare rant from the Scouser but one English fans can get hope from.

It is unlikely that England manager Roy Hodgson will drop the Manchester United hitman. Reports out of the England camp now suggest that the coach may restore Rooney to his favoured central role, in a bid to get the best out of his main striker. Hodgson will take heart from the fact that Rooney is pumped up for the crucial clash - an observation Gary Neville, Rooney's former United team-mate and now England assistant coach, noted.

"That's his character. He just wants to play every second of every day," said Neville.

 

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