The New Wayne Rooney (England v Australia Preview)

Cast your minds back, if you can, to 2003.

John Howard was the Prime Minister of Australia, the banks were fine, and a young fellow named Guy Sebastian won Australian Idol. But what we’re focusing on is a soccer game between Australia and England, held at the soon-to-be sadly demolished Boleyn Ground.

Sven-Göran Eriksson, England’s manager at the time, had planned to make an incredible number of substitutions, leading Scott Murray, the man in charge of the Guardian’s blog for the game, to call it “the most meaningless friendly of all time”.

However, the match was interesting for a particular reason. A young Everton striker by the name of Wayne Rooney was named in Eriksson’s squad of 23, and, if used, would become the youngest English international ever.

The first half was an absolute shambles for England. Tony Popovic gave Australia a headed goal in the 16th minute, while shortly before half time, Harry Kewell easily beat the keeper before tapping one in. England walked off to boos.

Eriksson, in what was possibly a meditated plan and possibly an act of spite, reacted by substituting all eleven English players, giving Rooney his debut at the age of 17. England pegged one back in the 69th minute, but Brett Emerton finished off a 3-1 victory, one which fans would probably have described as one of the worst in English history.

13 years later, Australia returns to England, hopeful of dishing out the same old humiliation. England, on the other hand, will be attempting to show the competitors at Euro 2016 that they are a force to be reckoned with.

*****

INSTANT GUIDE

  • Who’s playing? England and Australia.
  • When is it being played? At 4.45am tomorrow1.
  • Where is it being played? In Sunderland, England.
  • Why is it being played? England wanted to play us for a warm-up for Euro 2016 (which I’ll be covering).
  • What happened the last time these two teams played? See above.
  • Can I watch it on TV? If you have Foxtel, then yes.
  • Can I listen to it on radio? I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’m not a radio god.
  • Who will win? England, probably.

*****

England’s squad is being picked from the 26 they have prepared for the Euro tournament, which, by the way, starts in two weeks. Three will have to be dropped, so this match may go some way to deciding who remains on their medium-sized island in the north Atlantic.

Fabian Delph (Manchester City mid) and Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City mid) are assumed to be two of them, and the third, until recently, looked to be Manchester United’s teen sensation Marcus Rashford.

Rashford, like Rooney, has been in youth academies at EPL clubs for years, has been thrown in for big matches, and has scored consistently in them, having 5 goals in 11 games for Manchester United, including a Manchester derby winner. Despite this, he is considered too young for the pressures of a big tournament.

However, Daniel Sturridge, the Liverpool striker who played at the 2014 World Cup, has had a calf niggle lately, putting his place in doubt. If Rashford has a big night, he will likely replace Sturridge.

Australia has also named a young squad. Josh Risdon (Perth Glory), Jackson Irvine (Ross County FC), Stefan Mauk (Adelaide United) and Bradden Inman (Crewe Alexandra FC) are being named.

But woe be unto ye who doubt whether Ange Postecoglou is taking this game seriously


 

1If you’re in Victoria (like me), Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT, or New South Wales. 4.15am for you South Australians and Territorians, and 2.25am for the West Australians among us. And if you’re from England, reading this to study up on your opponents from a mysterious land, it starts at 7.45pm Friday.

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