Wayne Rooney: England Can Challenge for World Cup 2014 with United Man Firing
The Wayne Rooney of now is a far different animal to that which set Euro 2004 alight with some quite magnificent virtuoso performances.
He may no longer be the explosive impact player he was in his youth, but the more cerebral approach to the game he has developed in recent years makes him a more well-rounded threat to the opposition.
In the buildup to his nation's midweek friendly with England, Brazilian wunderkind Neymar expressed his opinion that Roy Hodgson's side "rely too much on Rooney. Once you look past him you don’t see an obvious player who can win them a match." (via The Sun)
While this is at best a debatable claim, there can be no denying the Manchester United man's importance to his country.
Here are five reasons England can win the World Cup 2014 with Wayne Rooney firing.
Wayne Rooney in his formative years was a player who ran on pure instinct and sheer God-given explosiveness.
But playing in a deeper lying playmaker role for the Red Devils this season, he has been able to focus on improving the parts of his game that had perhaps gone ignored while he played as a forward.
His passing, awareness of teammates, creativity and vision have all grown exponentially while he's settled into his new position.
Simply put, he is a far more intelligent player than the Rooney of old, and that can only mean good things for England.
Rooney's development into a more cerebral threat has been mostly due to a maturation off the pitch.
His develpoment at the Carrington training grounds and his experiences dealing with the pitfalls of fame and becoming a father for the first time have seen the Englishman mature in a way many thought impossible once upon a time.
Gone are the momentary lapses in discipline and mini-meltdowns, replaced by a player who fights just as hard for the cause, but manages to remain within the bounds of the rulebook.
England have the benefits of youthful exuberance in others, anyway. Rooney is now a wise, old head meant to lead.
Robin van Persie's arrival at Old Trafford could have resulted in the quick death of Wayne Rooney's Manchester United career, but he has found a way to adapt and thrive alongside the Dutchman.
This season has seen him work as tirelessly and selflessly as he ever has before, playing in a less glamourous role that naturally attracts less of the spotlight.
When one of his teammates scores, the Englishman looks as happy as if he'd found the back of the net himself.
With the emergence of several supreme young talents such as Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling in the England setup, Rooney will most likely welcome a little pressure being removed from his shoulders, and the chance to play the mentor.
Make no mistake, though, Wayne Rooney at his best is a force few in the game can equal.
Still recovering from a debilitating injury at the time, his underwhelming performances at Euro 2012 damaged the team's chances purely because he was relied upon too much by a team in transition.
He is capable of the guile and swift passing in the new system that Roy Hodgson seems to be implementing, but also retains the sheer power that makes England a physical threat.
His domineering presence in the midfield to combine with the smaller, more agile Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere will be vital to his team's versatility and ability to compete with the melting pot of footballing styles that a World Cup always produces..
England have struggled to live up to the hype in recent international tournaments not because of a lack of quality, but because of a lack of a winning mentality.
It's not the nation's pure will to win that has ever been in question, but how they can figure out a way to do so in the clutch.
It would perhaps be unfair to ask one player to make the difference—such a change should ideally come from a collective, rather than one individual.
But if a Rooney firing on all cylinders could inspire his teammates to cross that final threshold separating them from the Spains and Germanys of world football, England may just have a chance at the World Cup 2014.
How far do you believe England will progress at the World Cup 2014?