Criticism of Rooney goes way too far

England's Wayne Rooney (middle) hits the ground next to Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira after missing a...

England's Wayne Rooney (middle) hits the ground next to Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira after missing a chance to score during the World Cup match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 19, 2014. (REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:00 PM ET

MANAUS, BRAZIL - England’s World Cup aspirations suffered a massive blow here in the jungle seven days ago.

But its tournament officially ended following Costa Rica’s stunning win Friday afternoon, the final nail in a pair of Group D matches that demonstrated how cruel the game can be. And how savage fans across the pond can be in the face of failure.

“Absolutely devastated to be out of the World Cup,” England star Wayne Rooney posted to his official Facebook page Saturday morning. “Going into each game we had great belief in ourselves but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out. Sorry to all the fans that travelled and at home that we haven’t done better.”

Rooney, under immense scrutiny coming into the tournament, conceded he’s “gutted.”

No matter, the fans across the the pond have been relentless, if not irrational, in their criticism of Rooney.

“You have no passion or pride for the game,” a fan commented under Rooney’s post. “Stop the wages until they bring home the World Cup … Until then, useless comes to mind.”

And, in maybe the most English response I’ve ever read: “Bloody crap the lot of you,” another man wrote to Rooney. “Over-paid and over-hyped, don’t deserve to wear the England shirt, bloody shocking.”

Over-hyped? Coming into the tournament nobody predicted England to advance ... well, except for the British punters cosied up to the bar in their local pub.

Even so, the Three Lions weren’t poor against Italy or Uruguay. They scored in both games, and could have added to their totals.

In both matches, against a pair of former world champions, England controlled long stretches when the games were level.

Against Uruguay, raise your hand if you didn’t think England would go on to win.

Any hands? Well, there shouldn’t be.

But this is a game of mistakes. Switch off for 30 seconds and Luis Suarez skins your entire back four.

As fans, we only analyze the end result. In the end, it’s the only thing that matters.

But it’s disingenuous to comment on England without acknowledging it performed to its ability before falling short, courtesy the boot of two world-class strikers.

CAMEROON-BRAZIL TARGETED?

Down the road in Rio, FIFA officials have set up a daily media briefing.

But it’s more like a daily grilling.

Saturday’s topic: Match-fixing.

With the final group games looming next week, at least one game is reportedly being targeted by a criminal enterprise — Cameroon-Brazil.

The concept is simple, really.

Having already been eliminated, Cameroon has nothing to play for.

As FIFA acknowledged Saturday, these types of group games are always at risk of being manipulated.

At least one Brazilian media outlet reported Saturday that Cameroon-Brazil is under investigation.

“We have no concrete information that it’s a target,” a FIFA spokesperson said. “All matches are monitored. There’s a higher risk for last group-game matches, but that applies for any match.”

Spotting match manipulation is easier said than done.

Forget about the final score, criminal organizations often fix prop bets.

In the past, players have been paid to concede penalties and red cards during the course of a match — two incidents that regularly take place and can’t be identified based on a performance alone. Off-field investigative work has to occur.

IN IRAN’S CORNER

The Iranian soccer team might lack support back home, but it has some high-profile support in the U.S.

The Iron Sheik, a former professional wrestler, has come out in support of the Iranian team.

Having been born in Tehran, the Sheik, who famously feuded with all-American Hulk Hogan during his time in the World Wrestling Federation, had some harsh words for Argentina ahead of Saturday’s match.

“Lionel Richie has more sex than Lionel Messi,” the Sheik posted to his official Twitter account, among other unsavoury things.

Maybe, Sheik, but nothing was sexier than Messi’s late winner in a 1-0 last-gasp win over your boys. That said, at least someone’s backing the Middle Eastern side.

Back home, Iran has received next to no financial support. The team has even been told it can’t trade jerseys post-game because the federation can’t afford it, despite the fact FIFA awarded Iran $8 million just for making the tournament.

SEVERING HEADS

Charlotte, a French girl who took in Friday’s France-Switzerland match with me, is sure Les Bleus will continue to find success.

After watching her boys obliterate Switzerland 5-2, she explained why.

“We are good at cutting off heads,” the 24-year-old explained, an obvious reference to the country’s guillotine days.

Too bad, she added, “I like Switzerland’s cheese.”

“You must like Switzerland’s defence,” I thought.

LAST WORD

Two games. Two stunning game-winners.

Messi is doing what someone dubbed “the world’s best player” should do: Put his team on his back.

Before this World Cup, Portugal’s Ronaldo was considered the world’s top talent.

But with Portugal flirting with elimination, Messi’s ability to single-handedly lift Argentina into the second round could make him the king once again.


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