England expects Rooney at his best
Wayne Rooney will be out to break his World Cup curse in Brazil after flopping on the biggest stage twice before.
Rooney has endured a miserable time at international tournaments since announcing his arrival on the global stage as an 18-year-old with four goals over two 2004 European Championship matches against Switzerland and Croatia.
That brilliant burst of teenage energy, which earned Rooney his career-defining move from Everton to Manchester United, has proved something of a false dawn for the striker when it comes to strutting his stuff in an England shirt.
Since those heady days in the summer sunshine in Portugal it has been all downhill for Rooney, who has yet to score in eight matches at the World Cup.
Now England manager Roy Hodgson has called on the 28-year-old to finally seize the moment when England head to Brazil in June.
"Maybe once or twice in the past I think I can say without fear of contradiction that on the world stage he hasn't exploded as he has on our national stage, where we all accept him as an outstanding player," Hodgson said.
"We have been together for a couple of years, we are growing slowly and there will be an opportunity for him in Brazil to show he is not just a great star in the Premier League, but a world star."
Rooney was famously sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho as England went out of the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals against Portugal. He was barely recognisable with his wretched performances in the tournament in South Africa four years later in a forgettable campaign for Fabio Capello's team.
Rooney made no secret of his dislike of England's Rustenburg training camp and he quickly labelled the secluded base 'boring'.
His unhappiness was clear to see on the pitch and Rooney's volatile temperament was questioned when he turned to television cameras to criticise booing fans as he trudged from the field following a lacklustre 0-0 draw with Algeria.
It was a familiar tale at Euro 2012, where Rooney was suspended for the first two group matches for kicking out at a Montenegro player in the qualifiers.
And when Hodgson really needed him to deliver a masterclass in the quarter-finals against Italy, Rooney once again went missing as England bowed out on penalties.
While few would dispute Rooney's prodigious gifts, as his stunning strike from the half-way line in Manchester United's win at West Ham in March underlined, he has often seemed a slightly listless figure for England.
Hodgson desperately needs Rooney to shake off that lethargy in Brazil and he is clinging to the belief that the forward is mature enough to understand this could be his last chance to really dominate a World Cup.
"I hope with Wayne, and certainly the message to him is: 'This is your chance. Sure, you'll be a bit tired, but so will Luis Suarez and David Luiz and various other players, because they are also playing in the Premier League and playing every game, like you'," he said.
"He is 28, a terrific age, and this is the world stage, the perfect opportunity for him to prove to people around the world what we already know - that he is a very, very gifted footballer, a very all-round footballer capable of playing in many positions and someone who is a leading light in his team, which is one of the best in the world."
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