The next few weeks will prove how much faith Roy Hodgson has in Wayne Rooney's ability to carry the nation's charge towards a successful World Cup campaign.
Pressure is already mounting on the Manchester United forward, as reported by Neil Ashton of the Mail Online, with Hodgson non-commital on how he will use the attacker in Wednesday's friendly against Ecuador.
Ashton writes that there is a tidal wave of opinion in favour of Rooney being dropped from the first 11, with the England coach only describing him as "a useful player."
Hodgson's decision now is whether he should unleash Raheem Sterling, who has been excellent for Liverpool this year, and sacrifice Rooney.
Ashton quotes Hodgson saying about Rooney:
I’m not saying if he’s exceptional or not. I have picked him because he is a very good player. If I say yes he is exceptional or no I don’t think he’s exceptional I’m wrong either way. He’s a football player. I decide how I want to use Wayne Rooney. There is an obsession with Wayne Rooney which I don’t really share.
He can play centre forward, behind the centre forward and wide. If he’s done all that with Manchester United there is no reason why I can’t use him in those positions as well. I look at the players at my disposal and decide what they need and what we need. Then I expect them to do it.
In stark contrast, Hodgson spoke about Sterling in glowing terms following his impressive cameo against Peru at Wembley, per Ashton: "You don’t have to have any doubts about how we feel about Raheem Sterling. We feel he’s an exceptional player."
There is a huge difference in tone between how the England manager speaks of Rooney and Sterling, not least that he would label the Liverpool attacker "exceptional" but not confirm the same when discussing the Manchester United player.
Rooney's record with England is impressive, having scored 38 times in 90 appearances for the Three Lions, per Ashton. But the player has failed at his two World Cup appearances, hampered by injury and poor form.
Radio 4 editor Nick Sutton tweeted the Mirror's back page headline, which suggests that Hodgson might indeed drop the mercurial striker:
The Daily Telegraph's chief sports writer Paul Hayward also gave his opinion on Rooney's fading status in the England set-up. However, he also pointed out that the United player is still returning to full fitness after his injury issues late in the Premier League season:
Rooney has long been heralded as the golden boy of English football, but it is true to say that the former Everton player has not fulfilled the potential he showed as a teenager.
At one point it seemed he may become one of the elite footballers playing in world football, but when you compare the progression of he and his former United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, it is clear to see how Rooney's influence has not reached the levels it might have.
Hodgson is correct in taking the onus away from Rooney, especially if he is not showing great form going into the competition, in Brazil.
The England coach has a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal and should rely heavily on his Liverpool contingent, who proved this year that they can score goals and win games.
Rooney is not great in a wide role but it is one he has played many times. Daniel Sturridge will be England's No. 9 at the World Cup so Rooney will have to be accommodated elsewhere.
If not deeper or wider, then Rooney will have to sit out matches and his third appearance on the biggest stage of all could become a huge anticlimax for the Merseysider.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!