Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney insists he and his Three Lions’ teammates aren’t focused on fulfilling a target set by the FA and are only interested in winning Euro 2016.
Despite that, Rooney is insistent he will attempt to lead his country to European glory rather than be happy with anything less.
Speaking ahead of the first knockout round game against Iceland, who have excited the whole of the continent’s football fans, Rooney was adamant England are not playing to just get to a quarter-final and would like to win the tournament.
“That’s the aim. I’m not going to say we will be happy with getting to the last eight and that the future is bright for the next two to four years,” Rooney said.
Euro 2016 had been widely regarded as a tournament for England to build a team ahead of both the 2018 World Cup and the next European Championships, held in 2020. However, excitement grew ahead of the opening game against Russia because of the new, young generation coming through whom Rooney has been overseeing as captain, including Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier.
Rooney saw it in the latter way, a tournament to win rather than to build: “If we get to the quarter-finals and go out, I’m not going to say we have shown progress from the last tournament [England were knocked out in the Euro 2012 quarter-final]. I believe we are better than that.”
The all-time England top goalscorer said he is more confident in the current squad than in the squad who were defeated by Italy on penalties in 2012, as well as the squad who were knocked out at the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
England “might have to play France, Spain or Germany” due to finishing second behind Wales in Group B. “If this was four years ago,” Rooney said, “we would be worried.”
“But I think the gap to those teams is not as big as it was,” he concluded.
Rooney will equal David Beckham’s England appearance record of 115 caps on Monday evening if he does not pick up an injury before then. That will make him the joint most-capped outfield player as well as all-time record goalscorer, a superb achievement that could be joined by the all-time Man United record goalscorer if he stays at the fclub under Jose Mourinho.