England’s performance in Berlin on Saturday night was one of the finest we have seen from the Three Lions for a number of years. The win over Germany came courtesy of a side with very little international experience, but who showed great character to come from 2-0 down to win 3-2. The win also came without captain Wayne Rooney in the team, and now he may struggle to regain his place in the side.
Against the Germans, with Rooney out injured, Roy Hodgson started with Harry Kane as the lone striker in a 4-3-3 system, with Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck on the wings. In the second half when Jamie Vardy was bought on, England went to a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Dele Alli playing in behind Vardy and Kane.
In Rooney’s absence, England were no less dangerous going forward. They created numerous opportunities, with Kane finishing well after an excellent turn, before Vardy equalised with a wonderful back heel from Nathaniel Clyne’s cross.
It has often been said that England would be better off without Rooney in major tournaments, and the stats may suggest that to be true. The Manchester United striker has scored just six goals in five tournaments, with four of these coming back at Euro 2004.
It can also be argued that Rooney has passed his best for the national team, despite being the country’s all time leading scorer with 51 goals. He has been regularly criticised for his performances, and too high a proportion of his goals have come against sides ranked below 50 in the world, while 15 have come in friendly matches.
On Saturday, England pressed Germany high, and attacked with speed. Given how Rooney has played with Manchester United in the Premier League this season, he may no longer be capable of playing that style of football.
The other question would have to be where the 31-year-old comes into the side. It will be difficult for him to dislodge Dele Alli, who was magnificent against Germany, and was man of the match against France in November, playing as the sole attacking midfielder. Of all the players who will be at Euro 2016 this summer, only Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have scored more goals than Harry Kane in the league this season, so it seems highly unlikely Hodgson will leave him out.
The only other spot for Rooney would be as a second striker, and even that would mean Hodgson ignoring the media storm calling for Jamie Vardy to start in France. His role as captain shouldn’t give him any advantage however, because if the players cannot motivate themselves for a major international tournament, they do not deserve to be there.
If England are to have any chance this summer, it would mean Vardy, Kane and Alli all have to start, leaving no room for Rooney. Although it may be hard to leave out a player of his reputation, it would be for the good of the team.