June 22, 2012
Rooney has been Mr. Goody Two Shoes
By Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
DONETSK, UKRAINE - It's hard to make Wayne Rooney look like a well-grounded, model citizen, one the local Chamber of Commerce would be clamouring to honour as an off-the-pitch role model.
Given his colourful past, you would figure that's pretty well an impossible task.
Well, hand it to Italy's Mario Balotelli. He's accomplished the impossible.
Next to the Italian bad boy, Rooney has been Mr. Goody Two Shoes -- or Goody Two Cleats, as the case may be -- in terms of copping headlines heading into Sunday's quarterfinal showdown between Balotelli's Italians and Rooney's Three Lions at Kiev's Olympic Stadium. At one point, footage of Rooney carrying his young child through the streets of Poland on Father's Day was shown.
Of course, Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci isn't buying any of it.
He knows how much of a trouble maker Rooney can be.
At least on the pitch.
And while the Italians aren't centring their entire game plan on stopping Rooney, you can bet there is a big "X" beside his name when the the Azzurri coaching staff looks at the England roster.
Rooney wasted little time in making an impact at Euro 2012 after sitting out England's first two games due to suspension. There was plenty of rust, sure, but not enough to keep him from tapping in the match's only goal in a 1-0 England win over Ukraine.
Such is the impact of Rooney. One chance is all it takes. So much so, the Italians have been pouring over footage in an effort to contain and curtail the English star.
"England are made up of top-class players," Bonucci told reporters. "It's not only Rooney, although we realize what a fantastic and dangerous striker he is. We will have to be collective as a team in order to beat England.
"We started to scout Rooney in the last few days. In terms of information, we have watched many videos.
"England are a very compact and solid team. They have also improved a lot defensively in the last two years."
As for Rooney, he continues to beat the drums concerning team unity on the English side under manager Roy Hodgson. In his mind, there is no reason why England can not grind all the way to the final.
After that, well, anything can happen.
"We're more organized than ever," Rooney told reporters. "The lads have all been fighting for each other, we want to do this together, so I think we've got a great chance.
"We feel good, we've prepared well and we're really looking forward to it."
Having said that, he understands Italy will be a tough out.
"It's important that we believe in ourselves," Rooney said. "We've got a great group of players and we're confident. It's not going to be an easy game but we've got the players, we've got the belief and the togetherness to do a job on them.
"Once you get to this stage of the competition, anything can happen."
It certainly can.
Just look at how Mario Balotelli made him look like The Good Guy among the two opposing strikers.