Rooney’s metatarsal and England’s World Cup

The media has a tendency to blow things out of proportion. It’s a natural extension of wanting to capture the emotional imagination of their readers, but for someone looking for just the facts and not drama or entertainment, the whole scene becomes drab and a waste of time.

Rooney’s injury is horrible and devastating, yes. But will it cost England the World Cup? Will it cost them a place in the semi-finals or what not?

I seriously doubt it.

Rooney’s injury in Euro 2004 led a lot of us to blame England’s failure to go on to the semi-finals on his broken metatarsal. Truth is, the pairing of Gerrard and Lampard had been a shadow of their individual glorious talents and England never really “got going”. Then there was Beckham playing unfit through the 2002 World Cup and Gerrard missing out then, but luckily David Seaman’s howler took the spotlights.

This time it’s Rooney again, it’s a broken metatarsal again (third major tournament in a row for England, maybe they should do something about this funny business?). 40 days is a lot of time and England banking (unrealistically) on Rooney’s good form to win the World Cup, you would hope that the United forward would take part. Unless, of course, you know your history.

Last time Rooney broke his foot (Euro 2004 — fifth metatarsal), it took him 10 weeks before he played again. And while the initial reports suggest that he will be playing again in 6 weeks, it seems more likely that he will not be able to take part in the group stages. Having Rooney along only for the knock out stages (assuming England get through) is good enough — you would rather have an unfit Rooney on the pitch than a fit Peter Crouch (although if you said Defoe I might change my mind).

Still, it’s a dilemma for Eriksson — I expect him to keep Rooney in the squad but not play him unless his condition improves well enough for him to train a bit before the knock-out stages. Even then, putting so much pressure on a 20-year old would be asking too much — the lad has yet to cope with carrying the weight of United’s long hopes.

On Friday I read a piece in the Guardian talking about how England’s managers have a history of leaving their best players out of crucial matches so that if something goes wrong, the player’s absence can be blamed (or something like that). They blamed 2002 and 2004 on injuries, but the truth is England as a whole was not good enough then. They’re not good enough now either, although with Robinson, Terry, Cole and Rooney they have an enviable backbone of steel. And that is before you mention Gerrard and Lampard — the two best midfielders in the Premiership.

I’ll discuss England’s odds for the World Cup another day (currently they are second-favorite with the bookies after Brazil), but for now it’s all about Rooney and whether he’ll make it back in time.

It’s still too early to call, but it looks like Rooney just might miss Germany 2006. The tournament will not be the same without him.

Update: Here’s an article on Soccernet on foot injuries and what not – an interesting read.

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