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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 3, 2006

Neville backs Rooney to handle criticism

Gary Neville is backing Wayne Rooney to deal with any flak which may come his way over his red card as England again finished as World Cup flops.

Rooney was given his marching orders after an hour of the quarter-final against Portugal after appearing to catch Ricardo Carvalho with his foot and then pushed Cristiano Ronaldo.

It left England a man short for the rest of normal time and extra-time before they were eventually beaten on penalties.

David Beckham, who quit as captain on Sunday, became the target of abuse from fans after he was sent off in similar fashion during France 98.

Neville said: 'The reaction for the sending-off will be what it will be. You people (the media) will determine that to some extent.

'But I know Wayne's a strong character and whatever comes his way, he'll take it and deal with it.

'Did anyone point a finger at Wayne for his red card? You don't do that in a football dressing room. That just doesn't happen.'

Neville refused to use Rooney's moment of madness as a major reason for England's failure to live up to his own belief they could win the tournament.

He said: 'Of course, sometimes sending-offs can turn games and to be honest they got a lot more of the ball and it became difficult for us.

'But I wouldn't want to use it (the sending-off) as an excuse. I saw Italy play against Australia in the second round with 10 men and they went on to win the match.'

Neville is never one to mince his words and knows England under-performed again in going out at the quarter-final hurdle.

He said: 'We couldn't have given any more but ultimately we lost and we're out of the tournament. For England and the expectations of the people and of ourselves, it's not good enough.

'I've been knocked out of tournaments before and sometimes you think 'I don't have the belief or the confidence' but I think we played well at times. We created better chances than Portugal but couldn't put any of them away - and we needed to do that.

'We haven't done enough again. We haven't got through and if you haven't got through, you haven't done enough. It's as simple as that.'

Peter Crouch, who led the England attack after Rooney's enforced departure, said: 'We have just got to pick ourselves up. It's a bitter blow. You don't want to go out in the quarter-finals.

'We felt we had the team to go all the way and it's just a shame it wasn't to be. I would have loved to have played in a semi-final but hopefully there will be other chances.'