It’s perhaps a sign of my age that I’m having to do a bit of reading up as to who Pitbull is. I’ve heard of him – I’m not that old – but ask me to name one of his songs and I’d struggle. I’ll also confess to only just discovering that he’s responsible for the official World Cup song ‘We Are One’. I’m yet to listen to it. Instead, it’s been the words of Wayne Rooney that have been music to my ears.
Rooney, clearly in (Pit?)bullish mood, has warned Italy that it is them who should be worried about the threat England pose in their Group D opener, not vice versa. The striker’s comments may have come in part as a reaction to the suggestion from Paul Scholes that Andrea Pirlo could “destroy” England – Rooney was upset by previous comments from his ex-team-mate suggesting that he may already be past his best – but I like to think that Rooney meant what he said and, after months of playing down England’s chances, it was refreshing and exciting to hear a key member of the squad speak out in such positive fashion.
Above anyone else, Rooney will be desperate to succeed in Brazil. 2010 was a disaster for him, and despite my belief that Scholes was wrong in suggesting that he may have peaked as a player already, Rooney will have few better opportunities than this to make a true impact on the world stage as the poster boy of the team.
With Brazil kicking off the tournament with their game against Croatia later today, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Rooney and the great Brazilian hope, Neymar. Both player have their faces plastered over marketing campaigns the world over, and both are the first name on their respective manager’s team sheets.
Both also carry with them the hopes of a nation, and it will be intriguing to see how the pair of them cope in their separate bids to make history. Rooney has spoken of how he plans to enjoy this World Cup, and I have no doubt that if he manages to do so, we’ll all have reason to celebrate. You never know, I might even listen to a bit of Pitbull.
Quite apart from the surge of positivity and national pride that Rooney’s rallying cry inspires, I think he has a point. Italy are obviously a world-class side and will provide England with an incredibly stern test, but this isn’t the England of old. This is an England side emerging from an era of mediocrity, a squad made up of a potent mixture of experienced pros with something to prove and young bucks without a care in the world. If Hodgson can handle the ingredients correctly, he and England just might have a winning formula on their hands.
In Joe Hart, England boast a confident and trustworthy goalkeeper, playing behind a settled and solid back four. The midfield area is awash with options and, despite a concern over the fitness of Danny Welbeck, the team is blessed with plenty of attacking variety.
The first XI is almost certainly sorted bar a final choice or two, but England can utilise an array of talent from the substitutes’ bench, many of whom are in the form of their lives. The strike from Rickie Lambert in the friendly against Ecuador was particularly pleasing to behold. The youngsters in the team will hopefully be free to play with the flair and freedom that earned them their call-ups, whilst the players left from the old guard such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will be determined to finally leave their mark on a World Cup finals.
Mike Parkin is a lifelong football fan, a season-ticket holder at Watford FC and a fervent supporter of the national team. Mike presents the popular Watford podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ and will be documenting his trip to the World Cup on the website: www.fromtherookeryend.com. You can also see Mike’s images on Instagram (RookeryEnd) whilst you can interact with Mike directly on Twitter by following @RookeryMike.