Sports Mole previews Thursday’s international farewell for Wayne Rooney as England host USA at Wembley, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.
The match – now known as the The Wayne Rooney Foundation International – will be England’s penultimate outing of a memorable year which comes to an end against Croatia on Sunday.
Wherever one stands on the debate regarding Rooney’s farewell, the former Manchester United and Everton man is sure to receive a rapturous reception when he comes on as a second-half sub at Wembley.
No outfield player has made more appearances for England than Rooney, while he is also his country’s leading all-time scorer with 53 from his 119 appearances – four clear of the great Sir Bobby Charlton.
Rooney’s status as an England legend is secure, then, and those behind the idea to give him a farewell outing will argue that his contribution during a 15-year international career deserves to be suitably recognised.
The counter-argument is that it a) devalues the meaning of an England cap and b) is a step backwards at the end of a year where England have made such giant strides forward.
Few players have taken as much pride in playing for England as Rooney, though, and manager Gareth Southgate has justifiably pointed out that the 33-year-old is a valuable role model to the young and inexperienced players in the current squad.
Even with the inclusion of Rooney, Southgate very much has his eyes fixed firmly on the future and will hope to make further progress in 2019 after a 2018 which included a World Cup semi-final and nine wins from 15 games so far.
Sunday’s UEFA Nations League match against Croatia could prove to be a much more important affair than this one – depending on what happens between Croatia and Spain on Thursday – but England will still be hoping to carry some of their momentum over from a famous victory last month.
Southgate’s youthful side produced one of the country’s best performances in recent memory with a 3-2 win over Spain in Betis, racing into a 3-0 lead before half time and holding out for a result which very few people saw coming to keep themselves in contention for a Nations League Final place.
In many ways, England can take more from that victory than they can from their World Cup run, which recaptured the imagination of the fans but also saw the team fall short when faced with truly world class opposition.
As positive as 2018 has been on the whole, it has also contained two defeats to Belgium, a defeat and a draw against Croatia and defeat to Spain, so last month’s victory in Betis should do wonders for the belief of the team Southgate is building.
It was the meaningless friendlies which contributed to England fans growing disillusioned with the team in the first place, but if they can produce a similar display to their win over Spain on Thursday then it will not just be the return of Rooney which has fans excited.
Recent form: LLLWDW
USA will need no introduction to Rooney; indeed, they may be more familiar with the striker right now than many England fans following his summer move to join MLS side DC United.
Not many of those USA players would consider Rooney’s inclusion a charity appearance either, with the all-time Manchester United record scorer having netted 12 times in 21 appearances for his new club to help them from the bottom of the table into the MLS playoffs.
While Rooney is rebuilding his career in the States, the US national team are rebuilding themselves having missed out on World Cup qualification for the first time since 1986 last year.
Sarachan has a mixed record at the helm so far, winning three of his 10 games in charge with four draws and three defeats too, while their only victory in their last six outings came against Mexico in September.
The 2026 World Cup may seem like a long way away, but having been chosen as joint-hosts USA will know that allowing their recent slide to progress much further could have far-reaching implications for their future success over the next decade or so.
It should be noted that USA are testing themselves against high-quality opposition, though; their last five opponents were all at the World Cup – including champions France and five-time winners Brazil – while this international break sees them take on England and Italy away from home.
However, it is now more than two years since USA last won an away game – a 2-0 triumph over Cuba in October 2016, since when they have drawn five and lost three of their subsequent eight matches on the road.
Friendlies are a different story, though, with USA losing just one of their last eight on the road including a 1-1 draw with France in Lyon prior to their World Cup success this summer.
Recent form: LDLWLD
Southgate switched to a 4-3-3 formation during last month’s internationals and is expected to stick with that following their success in Betis.
England possible starting lineup:
Butland; Walker, Gomez, Stones, Chilwell; Loftus-Cheek, Dier, Barkley; Sancho, Kane, Sterling
USA possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Yedlin, Brooks, Miazga, Villafana; Weah, Delgado, Adams, Acosta, Pulisic; Sargent
Head To Head
England are unbeaten in their last four meetings with USA stretching back to June 1993, when Graham Taylor‘s side fell to a 2-0 defeat in Boston.
That is one of only two victories for USA in 10 previous editions of this fixture, though, with the other coming in their very first meeting. United States’ 1-0 win at the 1950 World Cup is still regarded as one of the biggest shocks in football history, particularly considering England won the next four fixtures by an aggregate scoreline of 29-4, netting an average of more than seven goals per game.
We say: England 2-0 USA
There should be a party atmosphere at Wembley for this one, and the England players will no doubt still be feeling good after their win over Spain in their last international outing. We’re going for a comfortable home win.