Same old story for main men Rooney and Gerrard

Sao Paulo is some 5,885 miles from Wembley, but as a crestfallen England team contemplated the likely end of another World Cup dream it was clear they had brought the same old failings and the same old issues with them to Brazil.

Same old story for main men Rooney and Gerrard

Nowhere was that plainer than on the faces of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.

The two most experienced members of the England side may not get another chance like this again. They will be 32 and 38 respectively by the time the next World Cup comes around, and perhaps there are only so many disappointments they can take.

Rooney and Gerrard were, in fact, two of England’s players as they learnt, as so many others have before, to curse the name of Luis Suarez.

They had kept Englandgoing, Rooney scoring the goal that had seemed destined to give England a fine chance of progressing to the last 16.

But football can be a brutal game, one of moments that prove decisive and sometimes end up providing an appalling epitaph to an otherwise wonderful career.

Certainly that was true for Gerrard here in a freezing Sao Paulo.

He could not be further away, but the feeling will have followed him from Anfield to Arena Corinthians.

It was not as obvious as the slip that allowed Demba Ba to score the goal that effectively denied his beloved Liverpool the title, but his misjudgement of a long ball, flicking it on for Suarez to run through and smash home the late winner, would have brought back horrendous memories.

Gerrard it was, too, who erred to allow Suarez to score his first. His pocket was picked, Edinson Cavani found Suarerz and the rest was inevitable.

At 34 it would be a surprise if he played for England again after this tournament, and this is no way for such a fine servant to bow out.

Rooney is six years younger but he, too, has played with an almost obscene amount of expectation on his shoulders over the last decade. At times he has struggled to deal with it and his celebration after scoring here — simply looking up to the heavens, a feeling of relief rather than joy etched on his face — told a story.

It had seemed at that point that this could be a tale of redemption, of Rooney making the decisive contribution.

Instead, we ask more questions, debate why an England side that showed so much promise in Manaus were so cowed here.

The first half was abysmal, with Rooney thoroughly failing to justify manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to play him centrally.

Raheem Sterling was moved left to accommodate him and was anonymous as a result.

Rooney was the type of talent that we would normally associate with Brazil or, indeed, Uruguay, and as a result he has shouldered the burden of expectation for a decade, able to perform as others can only dream.

He had never scored in a World Cup before but the ball was drawn to him last night, almost taunting him at times.

Certainly it seemed that way when he headed against the bar from a yard out in the first half.

His chance in the second period was easier, and although he was only denied by a fine save from Fernando Muslera he should not have given the goalkeeper a prayer.

But then came his moment as Glen Johnson rolled the ball into his path. Six yards out, Rooney could not miss.

Gerrard, who had grabbed his team-mate round the neck before the match and whispered in his ear, gave him a brief hug.

There was work to be done, and after being given a chasing for much of the opening period Gerrard and Jordan Henderson were getting on top of midfield. England were pushing forward and Rooney was everywhere. The subject of brutal attention from the Uruguayans, he was back to near his best.

But then it happened, and Gerrard was the fall guy once again.

He didn’t deserve that and neither, really, did England.

Gerrard and Rooney know the drill. Ultimately, though, it is simply rather sad. Football does that to you. Luis Suarez does that to you.

More in this section

Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox