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Wayne Rooney: Pressure off me now that England have more match-winners than ever

By Mark Ogden

Wayne Rooney does not look back in anger at his previous tournaments with England, but there is certainly an exasperated air of frustration whenever the scars of Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Poland/Ukraine and Brazil are brought up.

Aside from the flash of excitement generated by a teenage Rooney at Euro 2004, the England captain has little to smile about.

Indeed, such has been the narrative of high hopes and low blows, even the light-hearted moments are rooted in disappointment.

"I remember in the last Euros, the penalty shoot-out against Italy," Rooney recalled as he reflected on his tournament history.

"I always know which way I'm going with my penalties and (Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi) Buffon was actually pointing and telling me he knows I'm going that way.

"He was right, so then I started wondering if I should go the other way. I ended up the going the same way, but he dived the other way."

Rooney, at least, can claim not to have missed in a penalty shoot-out for England, but as Roy Hodgson's team prepares for the knock-out stages of Euro 2016 and a second round tie against Iceland in Nice next Monday, the spectre of another shoot-out hangs over the squad.

Having played in five major tournaments for his country, Rooney has won just one knock-out tie - a second round victory against Ecuador in 2006 - and he admits that sorry record needs to change.

"Ecuador?" Rooney said. "In my time, playing for England in tournaments has been disappointing because we haven't gone further in knockout stages, but I feel we have a chance of doing really well in this tournament.

"In previous tournaments, I haven't played as well as I can do and I accept that.

"In terms of this one, I look at it and wonder how I can do better than in other tournaments and do better for the team.

"I think the role I am playing suits me and suits the team and, if I have to be the person to step up and win us games, I will do that."

Rooney admits that, for the first time, he is now involved in a tournament with England where he has not burdened himself with the pressure of being the only man capable of making success happen.

"I have always held a lot of pressure in at previous tournaments, feeling I have to be the one who has to win games and tournaments," he said. "I have come into this tournament and we have players capable of doing magical things.

"We are different, but we have match-winners. We have five or six match-winners in our team and I can't say we have always had that."

Belfast Telegraph