Wayne Rooney: English Superstar Must Deliver in Euro 2012 Quarterfinal vs. Italy

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IJune 24, 2012

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 17:  Wayne Rooney during an England press conference during the UEFA Euro 2012 on June 17, 2012 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

English star striker Wayne Rooney must step up and deliver for the Three Lions on Sunday against Italy (2:45 PM ET, ESPN) at Euro 2012.

England entered this summer's tournament as a dark horse in Group C, but thanks to a Rooney header in their Group Stage finale against host Ukraine, the English are preparing for a quarterfinal clash with Italy as Group C winners. 

Rooney missed England's first two group matches against France and Sweden because he was serving a suspension. Now though he is cleared to play and be a factor in the final third. 

With a spot in the semifinals up for grabs, the pressure will fall on the shoulders of the 26-year-old Manchester United forward, who has always come up a bit short it seems at the international level. 

The time is now, though, for Rooney, who has seen his English side fall short of goals and expectations over the past few years at major international tournaments like the European Championship. 

Rooney and England fell to Germany in the Round of 16 at World Cup 2010, and missed out on Euro 2008 completely, failing to qualify. Before then, Rooney's England squad lost in the quarterfinals to Portugal at World Cup 2006 in Germany.

Rooney failed to score a single goal in either of the last two World Cup tournaments, only adding to his frustration and reputation as a underachiever for the national team.

An excellent effort against Italy on Sunday can change all the negative perceptions, though, as the Azzurri represent one of the world's most formidable squads and defenses in particular. 

If Rooney can be the difference maker against Gianluigi Buffon and company and lead his band of club superstars into a semifinal showdown with Germany on Thursday, then he will have proved his worth on the English squad, and defeated a great deal of his demons.


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