There seems to be no stopping Wayne Rooney right now, the Manchester United and England striker is in the best form of his career and whether you are love or loathe him in a United shirt, every England fan to a man will be hoping that he can continue his excellent domestic form into the World Cup in South Africa come June.
Rooney netted his 30th goal of the season when scoring a brace in Man Utd’s emphatic 4-0 Champions League win over AC Milan on Wednesday in front of the World’s media who were in town en masse for the return of David Beckham to Old Trafford. However, the return the prodigal son to the venue where he established his name was upstaged by the new Messiah and you unlikely to hear Beckham complaining. It is Rooney who carries the hopes of the nation on his shoulders, and it will be his boots that have a major say in how far England go at the World Cup and as his international team mate, David Beckham will be fully aware of that fact.
The former Everton striker has already surpassed his previous best goals tally for a single season with nine Premier League games and at least two more Champions League fixtures remaining. He is on track to land the Premier League’s Top Goalscorer award for the first time and bookmakers have been forced to cut Rooney’s World Cup Golden Boot odds as fans continue to back him to win the top goal scoring prize in South Africa.
It will be 44 years this summer since England won the World Cup for the first and only time and despite optimism heading into each of the seven tournaments since 1966, football has yet to ‘come home’. However, in Wayne Rooney, England has a player of true World class ability and such a player is often the difference between the nearly men and eventual winners of the competition and in South Africa Rooney could be that difference that sees the national team bridge that gap during the knock out stages that has all too frequently eluded them.
England’s recent World Cup pedigree hasn’t been too bad, you have to go back to 1982 to find the last time the team didn’t make it beyond the Group Stages of the competition and in the five tournaments since then, they have always been narrowly beaten, once by the infamous ‘hand of God’ and three times on penalties. The closest the came to reaching the final was a Semi Final penalty shootout defeat at the hands of West Germany in 1990. This suggests that an appearance in the later stages of the competition should be the minimum expectation for Fabio Capello’s men at the 2010 World Cup.
England’s group C opponents of USA, Algeria and Slovenia should pose no threat in them qualifying for the last 16 and Rooney must fancy his chances of getting his scoring off to a flying start in the opening three matches. Who they meet after the gorup stage and how far they can progress really is down to many factors, of which luck will play a major part. However, judging by the cool manner of Capello, any England fan has to be more confident about the Three Lions breaking their spot kick jinx under the guidance of Fabio that any of the other previous managers.
Will England win the World Cup in South Africa is question that remains open to fierce debate. The patriot in you will say yes, whilst the realist in you may have doubts but there is no denying that the opportunity for England to succeed is there for the taking and the England Odds reflect that chance being the third favourites behind Spain and Brazil.
Much will depend on the scoring boots (and fitness) of Wayne Rooney and if he can replicate the kind of form that has shown in the Premier League this season in South Africa, then the 44 year wait could soon be over.