IO DE JANEIRO: Striker Wayne Rooney says the current England team is the best he has played in during his 11 years with the national team and that Italy should be worried about Saturday’s game in Manaus.
“It’s probably the best squad I’ve been involved in so it’s great to be a part of. I am looking forward to this tournament and the future with England because it certainly looks bright,” Rooney told reporters on Wednesday.
“It is exciting. I think the younger players in the team bring a lot of energy and excitement and it is great to be a part of,” he added.
England lost to Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of the European Championship two years ago and the Italians are strongly favoured to emerge from a tough Group D that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.
But Rooney believes that with the emergence of young players like Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, the Italians will face a very different and improved England team.
“I think they should really be more worried about our team,” he said.
“In terms of Italy, it is more or less the same squad so it will be an interesting game for us to see how we’ve moved on and how we’ve progressed in those two years.”
“I think, really, the Italian players should be looking at us and how they can control our team,” he said, shrugging off concerns about Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who controlled the game two years ago.
“We’re not really too focused on Pirlo. He has been a fantastic player and Italy have got some great players, but we also have them,” he said.
Rooney has been a surprising focus of criticism in England based on his fitness and more broadly whether he deserves a place in the starting line-up.
“I don’t care what anyone says. I am ready physically, I am focused and of course there is competition for your places, there always is,” he said.
“You are playing for your country and I am ready for that. I am not worried. The manager has got a job to do. He picks the team and whatever side he picks I’ll respect that and do my best to try and help the team,” he said. (Reuters)