Strong Swansong for Retiree Rooney
Wayne Rooney made a final appearance for England as The Three Lions beat The USA in convincing fashion. Trent Alexander-Arnold scored his first England goal, while there was a debut goal for Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson.
Such is the fame and controversy that Wayne Rooney’s name brings, the ‘Wayne Rooney Foundation International’ has been a divisive topic of conversation since it was first announced. Nonetheless, this was still a proper international game, a preparer for Sunday’s vital tie with Croatia. Gareth Southgate’s line-up was the most inexperienced by caps since 1980. He handed debuts to Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson, while Dele and Jesse Lingard returned from spells on the touchline.
England made a rapid start to the game. Their hunger was there for all to see, and the first cross came into the box just a minute in. The match’s first chance though came in the tenth minute. Michael Keane found Trent Alexander-Arnold, who slid the ball into Lingard. Manchester United’s tricky playmaker slipped Callum Wilson in, who rounded Brad Guzan before the American goalkeeper knocked him to the ground. Guzan had pulled his arm away, but there was clear contact. The referee was unmoved. Lingard had a chance himself that was batted away by Guzan, before the game fell into a ten-minute lull.
With half of the first period played, The USA had a real chance to take the lead. A misplaced Dunk pass was quickly picked up and transitioned well by The US. Borussia Dortmund livewire Christian Pulisic took the ball. The midfielder has Croatian roots and spent a year living in England when he was seven. Pulisic knocked the ball through a melee of England shirts, and then followed it. No player picked him up, so he ran all the way through, only denied in his one-on-one by a good Jordan Pickford save. Just a minute later, England were up the other end. Dele found Jesse Lingard, who recreated his stunning goal against Panama with another curling beauty against North American opposition. Lingard, Dele and Jadon Sancho danced to the crowd to celebrate a beautiful England strike.
Only a minute later, England were queueing up again. Captain-on-the-night Fabian Delph was involved as Southgate’s side tried to pass a packed box. The ball fell kindly to Sancho on the right, who slipped the ball over to wide runner Alexander-Arnold. In true Carlos Alberto style, Liverpool’s young right-back thundered the ball past Guzan at the back post. Two goals in two minutes had made Dave Sarachan and America’s job now very difficult indeed. At half-time, thanks to Lingard and Alexander-Arnold, it was England 2-0 USA.
Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy became England’s third debutant of the night, as he came on for the second half. The inevitable rush of substitutions began in the fifty-eighth minute, when Wayne Rooney, complete with captain’s armband and number 10 shirt, took to the Wembley field for the very last time. The first real chance of the second half fell to the visitors. England switched off and allowed The USA an uncontested short-corner. Pulisic whipped the ball in, but all striker Bobby Wood could do was head over the bar. England’s clean-sheet remained.
Rooney was denied by Guzan with a tame strike, before England scored a third. Substitute Eric Dier played the ball out to Delph on the left side. Delph, on his seventeenth outing for his country, whipped in a lovely ball to the front post. Callum Wilson made the all-important near post run and studded the ball home for England’s third. The Bournemouth man had missed a couple of earlier chances, but made The States pay with his final one. A goal on debut put a smile on the face of Wilson, as he was embraced by Wayne Rooney. England led 3-0, it had been very convincing indeed.
Wayne Rooney had one final fairy-tale chance in stoppage-time, as he jinxed in and out of two opponents. When he finally squeezed out a shot, Guzan got down well and just about clawed it up. A foot further to the left and Rooney would have had his first [and last] England goal in over two years.
The match finished to cheers for Rooney and for England’s performance. The Three Lions heard on fulltime that Croatia had beaten Spain in the 93rd minute to keep England in the running to win the group. Sunday’s match could relegate England, but could also hand them the group. International football isn’t boring.
A very exciting performance from England ensured they keep themselves well in form for Sunday’s crunch match at Wembley. With Wayne Rooney bowing out from a wonderful England career, it ended England 3-0 The USA.