Wayne Rooney at 100: We pick 10 defining performances

Saturday 15 Nov 2014
Wayne Rooney through the years

England v Australia at Upton Park on 12 February 2003

One of the most stellar of England careers was launched out of this disappointing friendly, where the Socceroos pulled off a shock 3-1 victory over the hosts. At 17 years and 111 days old, Rooney became England’s youngest debutant when he replaced Michael Owen at half time. The youngster combined with fellow debutants Jermaine Jenas and Francis Jeffers to set up a goal for the latter. Jeffers, who attended the same school as Rooney, sadly never played for England again.

England v Denmark at Old Trafford on 16 November 2003

For this friendly, manager Eriksson took the opportunity to look at some fresh faces and try out a new formation. England made a brilliant start, scoring after just five minutes. Rooney tried to play in Emile Heskey and when the ball broke free in the box, the Everton starlet smashed a rising shot into the net via the underside of the bar. The player who had been suffering from a severe bout of flu had now caught Denmark cold. But the Danes were 3-2 winners in the end.  

Croatia v England in Lisbon on 21 June 2004

The Three Lions roared to a 4-2 victory against Croatia in their second match of the Euro 2004 Finals in Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz. Wonderboy Rooney hit the headlines again with two more goals as England’s hunger and passion won the day. Seconds before half time, with the score 1-1, Rooney blasted a 25-yarder into the corner. Then Owen played him in on 68 minutes and he ran almost half the length of the pitch before slipping the ball past the 'keeper. 

Wayne Rooney scores against Argentina

England v Argentina in Geneva on 12 November 2005

England won a thrilling friendly against their great rivals in neutral Geneva after twice coming from behind. Argentina had England on the back foot early on, surging forward to force Paul Robinson into a series of saves. The lethal Hernan Crespo pounced to score but England quickly responded, Rooney steering home an equaliser after Beckham had cleverly headed the ball down. In a grandstand finish, Owen netted twice as England defeated their nemeses 3-2.

Belarus v England in Minsk on 15 October 2008

England produced a performance of composure and spirit to take three World Cup qualifying points after a potentially difficult tie in Minsk. Two goals of real quality from Rooney gave the Three Lions a crucial win that saw them top Group Six by five points. Heskey slipped the ball to him for his first and then the United forward, showing commendable coolness under pressure, lifted the ball over the 'keeper to give England a vital two-goal cushion. It finished 3-1.  

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney fires home against Brazil

England v Brazil at Wembley on 6 February 2013

Roy Hodgson’s England welcomed the magical Brazilians – Ronaldinho, Neymar, etc – to Wembley Stadium for a special match that formed part of The FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations. On a freezing night, with more than 87,000 inside Wembley, an alert Rooney fired England in front after a misplaced Brazilian clearance on 27 minutes. A Frank Lampard volley on the hour gave England a memorable 2-1 victory after Joe Hart had saved Ronaldinho’s spot-kick. 

Brazil v England in Rio de Janeiro on 2 June 2013

The return in Rio’s famous Maracana four months later showed England at their best, fighting to achieve a 2-2 draw against one of the World Cup favourites (and hosts). Brazil went ahead after a tense and goalless first half, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slammed in an equaliser and Rooney – in his element against one of the great footballing nations – curled in a shot to give England the lead with eleven minutes left. Unfortunately, they only held it for three minutes.

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring against Poland at Wembley

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring against Poland at Wembley

England v Poland at Wembley on 15 October 2013

Rooney, now one of England’s most influential players, had headed the goal in Warsaw that won England a World Cup qualifying point almost exactly a year earlier. Now England needed their talisman again as they battled for the three points that would secure their place in the Brazil Finals. Rooney didn’t disappoint, heading bravely home to put England in front four minutes before the break. Moments earlier he had discarded the bandage round his head!

Uruguay v England in Sao Paulo on 19 June 2014

It had perhaps rankled with Rooney and his fans that he had never scored in a World Cup Finals match – but that all changed in England’s second Group D fixture against the Uruguayans in Sao Paulo. The final result, of course, was hugely disappointing for the Three Lions but Rooney gave them hope with an equaliser on 75 minutes, tapping the ball in from close range from Glen Johnson’s perfect cross. Earlier he had headed against the bar from even closer.

Wayne Rooney bends home his match-winning free-kick

Wayne Rooney bends home his match-winning free-kick

Estonia v England in Tallinn on 12 October 2014

England were finding it hard to break down a stubborn Estonian defence in their third Euro 2016 Qualifier in Tallinn’s A Le Coq Arena. Then, always a captain to lead by example, Rooney stepped forward to curl in the free-kick that brought victory with 17 minutes left. It was awarded after a trip on Raheem Sterling and Rooney carefully weighed up his options before beating the keeper at his near post. He was now on 43 strikes for England, just six short of the record. 

By David Barber FA Historian