Wayne Rooney: Why England's Star Striker Returned Just in Time

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Wayne Rooney: Why England's Star Striker Returned Just in Time
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

England needs Wayne Rooney.

Entering the group stage, that statement wasn't necessarily true. However, if England wants to win its first major championship in 46 years, Rooney is essential.

With that said, England didn't really need Rooney right away.

Against France, England got the goal it needed on a bruising header from Joleon Lescott. After that, they were more than willing to drop deep and defend. England had no need to move forward, and they happily took the point.

Then England was able to beat Sweden (in one of the best games of tournament), even though the Swedes were fighting for survival. Without Rooney, England still managed three goals, including an incredible header, a blazing scorcher and a clever heel.

All of those goals were great, and Rooney did nothing but cheer from the stands. England didn't need him.

Now the team does.

Luckily, once his suspension was lifted, Rooney got right to business.

He played an efficient first half against Ukraine, and scored right away in the second. All of a sudden, everyone remembered just how great Rooney is. He wasn't needed at first, but now it's his time to shine.

Right now, Rooney's former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, is carrying Portugal. Likewise, Rooney will have to lead the English attack. He will create or score just about every goal from here on in. Otherwise, England will be sent packing.

England has to play Italy in the quarterfinals. The winner gets the chance to play Germany in the semifinals. If England wants to score against either, Rooney must play well.

His return to the pitch is at the latest possible time. Rooney wouldn't have been able to shake off the rust quickly enough to play Italy. The game against Ukraine was the best thing for his psyche.

Rooney was able to get on the Euro pitch, and he will be in top form to take on Italy. In his first game, Rooney was good. Now he needs to be excellent.

England needs Rooney now. He just needs to perform.

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