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Alan Shearer on England

Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney has played poorly for England in South Africa

Alan Shearer
By Alan Shearer
Former England captain and BBC Sport pundit

Wayne Rooney has not come near to his usual high standards at this World Cup but it would never cross my mind to drop him for Wednesday's must-win game against Slovenia because he still holds the key to England's hopes.

Rooney has had two poor games so far against the United States and Algeria but, if he is fit, England coach Fabio Capello would be a fool to leave him out or even take him off, even if he is not playing well.

Against Algeria, Rooney had a poor first touch and just did not look right - it was almost as if he was carrying an injury - but he is a match-winner and it is very difficult to justify leaving match-winners out or taking them off when you need something to happen.

And England badly need that if they are to get out of Group C.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney blasts booing England fans

Rooney had a frustrating time of it on Friday night - and that showed at the end with his outburst about England supporters booing the team.

I am his biggest fan and I understand what he is going through but he should not have said what he did and he was right to apologise.

As well as the fall-out from that incident, the build-up to the game against Slovenia has been difficult all-round.

Capello is very experienced and successful at club level but this is his first World Cup and a massive test for him - he has got his hands full dealing with things on and off the pitch.

The poor performance against Algeria was followed by former captain John Terry's public criticism of England's World Cup campaign.

I think it is better for players to express their feelings, as Terry did, and they have had a few days to get things right. I hope they have done because they all have something to prove now.

Everyone was a shadow of their normal selves against Algeria - I would give them a score of 2.5 or 3 out of 10 in that game - and they simply have to get better. We are all nervous because we do not know whether they will.

When a team is out of form and not playing well it can be difficult to turn that around but what was more of a concern was to hear Capello and captain Steven Gerrard saying that they needed to improve the spirit of the squad. We have heard even more about that in the last few days.


It was a surprise to me and, until last week, nobody was even aware that there was a problem. We will find out on Wednesday whether it is possible to put that right within a few days. I am pretty sure Capello will turn it around but to what extent, we cannot be sure.

One of the things that was definitely lacking against Algeria was passion. I think that is partly down to the players not understanding the system they are being asked to play. I do not think they actually want to play it.

Gerrard did not want to play on the left-hand side for a start and Emile Heskey did not want to shoot - he looked scared to miss.

Something has got to change against Slovenia. I am not the only one who has been saying that Capello should use a five-man midfield with Gerrard behind Rooney. I still think that would work better. It cannot exactly get any worse can it?

The most frightening thing was that Algeria looked a better side than England did and passed it around a lot better, too. But that game has gone now and we have to look forward, albeit nervously.

I am still hoping England can reach the last 16 and, yes, I still believe they will.

I am not as confident as I was because of what I have seen but if I was a gambling man I would still bet that they will beat Slovenia and qualify from their group.

Alan Shearer was talking to Chris Bevan in Cape Town.

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see also
Capello backs 'important' Terry
22 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Terry sorry for England criticism
22 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Terry 'mistake' irritates Capello
21 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
How England can qualify
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup qualifying permutations
24 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
No rift in England camp - Lampard
21 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Ronaldo backs Rooney to improve
20 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Slovenia boss still rates England
22 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Upson to start against Slovenia
21 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Capello 'to quit if England exit'
20 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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