WORLD CUP 2018

Rooney to retire after Russia, but will he make it that far?

The divisive Manchester United player has retained the captaincy of England, but he and new coach Sam Allardyce face withering scrutiny in Slovakia.

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Rooney to retire after Russia, but will he make it that far?
ANTHONY DEVLIN AFP

In news that will invite mixed reactions from the British press and long-suffering supporters of the England national team, Wayne Rooney has announced that he will bring down the curtain on his international career after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"The time to say goodbye to international football"

"Come Russia I feel that will be the time for me to say goodbye to international football, my mind is made up," said Rooney, adding: "I will just try to enjoy myself over the next two years."

David Beckham record

Rooney, 30, is England’s leading all-time scorer with 53 goals in 115 appearances for the Three Lions, and will also overtake David Beckham as England’s most-capped outfield player when Sam Allardyce makes his bow as national team manager in the qualifier against Slovakia.

Rooney’s decision is likely to prove divisive, with some observers and a section of England’s fan base of the opinion that his retirement might have better served the side coming after the European Championship in France. Rooney was deployed in midfield by former coach Roy Hodgson as England recorded draws against Russia and Slovakia in the group stage and beat Wales via a stoppage time goal.

The nadir arrived in the first knock-out phase, when England were defeated by Iceland, a nation with the population of a minor English city making their first appearance in a major tournament finals. Rooney, as captain, shouldered much of the subsequent blame and Hodgson fell on his sword in the immediate aftermath of one of the country’s most infamous losses.

Euro 2004

The consensus that Rooney has failed to spark England in a major tournament since his first as an 18-year-old at Euro 2004 remains firmly entrenched – of his seven World Cup and European Championship goals four came in Portugal -- and there was a groundswell of public opinion that Allardyce should ring the changes in the first squad of his reign.

However, the former Bolton, West Ham, Newcastle and Sunderland manager proved unwilling to tamper with the status quo and named Rooney captain, stating that he will play the Manchester United man in the withdrawn role has occupied at Old Trafford under José Mourinho this season.

Slovakia scrutiny

Allardyce has a tough act to follow in qualifying after Hodgson guided England to the finals in France with ten wins from ten games and faces the hardest match in qualifying Group F when his side take on Slovakia in Trnava this weekend.

But Allardyce will ultimately be judged by England’s performance in Russia in two years’ time. Whether Rooney will still be around to lead out the side, or will retain the captain’s armband, remains to be seen. As qualifying for the finals gets underway this week both captain and coach will be under intense scrutiny against a side that has lost just five matches since January 2014 and beat Spain in qualifying for Euro 2016.

Anything other than three points in Trnava will not be an auspicious start to Allardyce’s tenure. Anything other than a Rooney performance rolling back about 12 years will cast further doubt on the player’s ability to last the course until Russia.