May 10, 2014, 9:41 AM EST
Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time top goalscorer in competitive internationals, has never scored in a World Cup. By the time the 2018 tournament rolls around, the forward will be nearly 33 years old. In other words, it’s now or never for Rooney – it’s time for him to make his mark on the world’s biggest stage.
Ryan Giggs has faith in the 28-year-old. Manchester United’s interim manager said, “Wayne is a top player. He is at a good age. He is probably at the peak of his powers and I know for a fact he can’t wait for it.”
Rooney won’t be involved in United’s final game of the season, in which the side travel to Southampton. He’s scored 17 league goals this season, but this will be the third straight game the forward has missed due to a groin injury.
Giggs isn’t worried, however, as he believes the rest will be to Rooney’s benefit: “He will be going into it relatively fresh. The injury has probably done him a favour. I know he is excited, just like all the lads who are going to the World Cup.”
Indeed, what Rooney may need to work the hardest to overcome are the memories of previous tournaments. In 2006, after a race to be fit enough for his first World Cup, Rooney was sent off in the quarter-final against Portugal for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. In the last tournament, England in general disappointed, and although Rooney was the top scorer in qualifying, he was unable to get on the scoreboard.
England were dealt a tough group for Brazil, in Group D with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. Quality performances by Rooney could even determine if the Three Lions make it out of the group stages, so many England fans will be hoping Giggs’ words ring true.
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