Dynamic, powerful and ruthless; for much of his career Wayne Rooney has been defined by words like these, and Euro 2004 was where he announced himself in such fashion to the world. After four goals and a quarter-final exit, Wayne Rooney had arrived.
It began against France in England’s group opener. The result, a 2-1 defeat thanks to a late Zidane brace, provided a sickening start to England’s campaign, but Wayne Rooney had given a glimpse of some light at the end of the tunnel. Rooney won a penalty with some fine forward play, but it was his all-round performance that caught the eye. Ambitious, skilful and a little badly behaved, Rooney was a nightmare for the French defence; Silvestre especially had a job on his hands.
Little changed ahead of England’s crucial second fixture against the Swiss: against a more middling international side Rooney ran rampant, heading in during the first half and striking off the post and goalkeeper for his second after fine work from Darius Vassell. England ran out 3-0 winners with their campaign right back on track.
Against Croatia a draw would likely have been enough for England, who would only have been threatened if Switzerland beat France by a margin of five goals or more. A loss however would send England home, and it took only five minutes for Niko Kovac to put Croatia 1-0 up.
By half time however England looked comfortable thanks to a Paul Scholes equaliser followed by a stoppage time goal from Rooney, who found the net devastatingly from 25 yards. After the restart Rooney had all but assured England of their spot in the quarter finals. A fine one-two left Rooney clean through on goal, and he made no mistake, sending the ball one way with his feet and the goalkeeper the other way with his eyes. From 3-1 England saw the game out 4-2 after late goals from Igor Tudor and Frank Lampard, and progressed to the quarter final stage.
Despite England’s exit against Portugal, Rooney had indeed announced himself to the world.
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