SAO PAULO (AP) — One moment, Wayne Rooney madly celebrated the triumph of ending years of criticism for his World Cup struggles. Then, the England striker left the field with his head down in disappointment.
At last, Rooney had delivered his first goal for the Three Lions on the big stage. He came through following constant scrutiny surrounding his lack of production at the World Cup.
And it still wasn’t enough Thursday as Luis Suarez spoiled England’s night, and perhaps its hopes of moving on in Brazil, too.
Rooney’s equalizer in the 75th minute gave England hope. Ten minutes later, Suarez scored his second goal of the night just a month after left knee surgery, sending Uruguay to a 2-1 victory and pushing England to the brink of elimination.
“In the second half I thought we were going to win the game to tell you the truth, especially when we got level,” defender Leighton Baines said. “We were dealt another blow really with the goal. He’s world class and it sort of looked like maybe he wasn’t putting himself part of it as much as he normally would, but he’s got the confidence in himself to know if he gets a chance he’ll take it.”
While Rooney did his part for the Three Lions at last, he still left Itaquerao Stadium in defeat. He slowly walked to the middle of the field to trade jerseys, then departed. A stone-faced Rooney didn’t stop to speak to reporters afterward in the mixed zone area, offering a polite, “No, sorry.”
Early, Rooney leapt several feet in the air and had a perfect first chance to make a name for himself in the World Cup. The Manchester United striker outjumped Uruguay defender Martin Caceres on Steven Gerrard’s free kick in the 31st minute, but his header hit exactly where the post and upright meet.
Rooney had another opportunity early in the second half, when goalkeeper Fernando Muslera — dressed in glaring head-to-toe neon orange — made a sliding stop on his point blank shot.
That left the 28-year-old Rooney with 28 career World Cup shots, just eight on target.
Finally, he found the back of the net.
Rooney was sprinting toward the net and scored from 3 yards out with his left foot on a low pass from Glen Johnson. That sent Rooney into a joyous celebration as he pointed to the sky, blew kisses and embraced Johnson before being chased down by others.
With one last chance on a corner in the fifth minute of injury, Rooney’s ball went off a teammate.
“We planned the match to minimize England’s strengths, a team with no weaknesses,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. “From midfield to their forwards, they are scary. Besides creating chances, they know how to finish in front of the goal.”
Rooney scored his 40th goal in 94 international appearances, but only his second in the past eight games. And his first in three World Cups.
Despite the struggles, he has had the support of England coach Roy Hodgson, who insists there always will be one player who gets extra scrutiny.
Hodgson celebrated the goal with an emotional outburst as he jumped up and down on the sideline, arms raised to the sky.
“I think that in both the games we’ve shown some elements of playing some good football, and I think in both the games we’ve shown that we are a team that is making progress,” Hodgson said. “But results decide everything, and both results have been negative.”
While Rooney did make the cross that set up Daniel Sturridge’s tying goal in a 2-1 opening loss to Costa Rica on Saturday, three of his own shots went off target.
Now, England will need everything it can get from Rooney and the entire roster — not to mention help from Costa Rica and Italy on Friday — to remain alive in the tournament.
“It’s somewhat awkward,” Baines said. “We’ll see how the game goes tomorrow.”
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