Film Focus: Can Wayne Rooney Be England's Luis Suarez?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2014


As we head into the World Cup, it seems England's hopes are being pinned on one man yet again—Wayne Rooney.

The Manchester United striker has previously been tipped to be England's talisman in 2006 and 2010, although it's never quite worked out the way he and the Three Lions would have hoped.

In Germany, his stamp on Ricardo Carvalho saw him sent off in the quarter-final as England crashed out on penalties to Portugal, while in South Africa four years later, his struggle to find fitness plagued him throughout.

Rooney's two World Cups have been a considerable anti-climax by his own standards, with the former Everton man yet to score a goal on the biggest stage.

Will Brazil 2014 be any better?

If it is to be, we will need to see a different Wayne Rooney.

With the weather conditions in Brazil playing a role, England's No. 10 will do well to heed the advice of his former United teammate Paul Scholes.

Scholes recently commented in his Paddy Power column that Rooney has a tendency to float too much in games, chasing possession all over the pitch in his desire to score goals.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

"Wayne wants all the responsibility to score," Scholes said this week. "He’ll try to play left-back, right-back. Sometimes he does that too much instead of saving himself and his energy for what his teams need—the ball in the net."

It's a fair assessment to make where Rooney is concerned, although with Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling expected to complete a three-pronged attack for England at the World Cup, Roy Hodgson's side will have an air of Liverpool about them this summer.

Sturridge and Sterling will adopt the roles they are familiar with at Anfield, playing wider than the main front man, while Rooney will fill in where Luis Suarez often does, playing more centrally than his teammates.

There will be plenty of movement among the three, meaning their positions aren't as rigid as the pre-match tactics board would suggest, but the nuts and bolts of England's attack will feature with that setup.

Clint Hughes/Associated Press

It's going to be intriguing to watch, especially as Suarez will face England in the group stage with Uruguay.

That combination at Liverpool helped the Reds to score 101 Premier League goals in 2013-14. If Rooney can hit it off with his international teammates in a similar fashion, it could mean England go a lot further in Brazil than many are tipping them to do.

Rooney will need to perform with the same intelligence Suarez does week in, week out.

The Uruguayan is a similar beast cut from the same cloth as Rooney, but he often puts that hunger and desire to succeed to better use, not allowing his emotions to rule his decision-making when in attack.

As much as he would like it to be, Suarez understands it isn't all about him scoring the goals that win matches, and Rooney will need to do the same, forgetting about wanting "all the responsibility to score," as Scholes suggests he does.

Premier League (World Feed)


The above clip from Liverpool's demolition of Everton at Anfield in 2013-14 outlines that.

Suarez may be the central striker for Liverpool, but he's spotted space that needs to be filled after Sturridge's move inside to pick up possession.

By sitting less centrally, it creates a pocket of space for Sterling to exploit, splitting the defenders. Using his pace, Sterling latches onto a through ball from Sturridge for an effort on goal.

The Liverpool youngster didn't score on this occasion, but it outlines how Suarez's clever link-up play, without even receiving possession, impacts Liverpool's attack.

Were he playing selfishly, Suarez would be occupying the very space Sterling is running into, thus narrowing the game and limiting Liverpool's threat.

And when in possession, he's even more dangerous—to which his 31 Premier League goals last season will testify.

In the same game against Everton, of which Liverpool ran out 4-0 winners, Suarez completed the rout for his side.

Premier League (World Feed)


For critics of the Everton defenders, it was a catastrophic error that allowed Suarez to go break through on goal, running half the length of the pitch to fire past Tim Howard in goal.

Celebrating the talents of a striker, we prefer to look at the positive side of Suarez's game that forced the error.

Rather than playing left-back, right-back or anywhere else on the pitch to chase possession, Suarez held his position as Liverpool's sole front man as Everton chased the game.

When Liverpool made a defensive clearance, he pounced, capitalizing on a poor pass to race through on goal.

Premier League (World Feed)


From a simple defensive maneuver, Liverpool were suddenly on the attack and, within 10 seconds, the ball had gone from their 18-yard box to the back of the Everton net.

Premier League (World Feed)


These are just two examples of Suarez's play, and there are plenty more besides. Indeed, the events against Everton were a familiar story throughout the 2013-14 Premier League narrative that gripped football fans across the globe.

Rooney can do the same with England, especially with the same personnel from Anfield being deployed alongside him.

In fact, the doom and gloom surrounding many fans when they consider England's chances in Brazil is perhaps a little misplaced.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Since Euro 2012, England have developed considerably. Hodgson suddenly has more attacking options and, by utilizing the pace of Sterling and Sturridge, Rooney's role isn't as straightforward or as predictable as it has been whenever he has appeared in an England shirt.

We've seen flashes of brilliance from Rooney down the years and, with a little more guile, he can become to England what Suarez is to Liverpool and Uruguay.