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Sep 3, 2009

Rooney denies diving after Arsenal incident

Wayne Rooney has vehemently denied accusations that he is guilty of diving following a week in which the contentious issue of simulation has been high on the football agenda.

An incident involving Arsenal striker Eduardo during a Champions League game against Celtic, and his subsequent two-game ban for 'deceiving the referee', has sparked intense debate over the scourge of diving in the English game.

That debate was brought into sharp relief again on Saturday when Rooney won a penalty in a league game against Arsenal, with the striker going on to score from 12 yards and put Manchester United on course for a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

Replays appeared to suggest that Rooney was playing for the penalty as Manuel Almunia rushed out of goal and made clumsy contact with his opponent, but the United star is adamant he is not guilty of diving.

"Everyone who watches me play knows I am an honest player,'' he said. "I play the game as honestly as I can. If the referee gives a penalty there is nothing you can do. It is a penalty. If they want to take punishment further it is down to UEFA and the people who run the game. As players you just want to play.

"Diving has been in the game for years. Probably the coverage the game gets now, with all the cameras around, it gets highlighted a bit more. But it hasn't got any worse.

"It is difficult to prove. You see some that should not have been penalties but get given and others that are clear and do not. The decisions are down to the referee. It is a difficult job but they do the best they can.

"England has always had a good record of being honest. It is important you try and play honestly. You don't like to see anyone cheating. It is not fair on the fans or the opponents.''

Rooney was speaking at a press conference ahead of England's friendly with Slovenia on Saturday, with the game at Wembley designed to prepare Fabio Capello's side for their World Cup qualifier against Croatia next week.

Slaven Bilic's side famously beat England 3-2 at their new home in 2007, denying them the chance to compete in Euro 2008. Two years on, a win for England will guarantee their place at the World Cup finals and Rooney is determined to make amends for one of the most disappointing nights in the country's recent history.

"Croatia beating us at Wembley, which made us not qualify for Euro 2008, is still something we look at,'' he said. "If we can turn it round at Wembley, just two years later and beat them to qualify for the World Cup, it would be a very sweet moment for us.''

Rooney has scored nine goals in his past seven appearances for his country and is an integral part of Capello's plans for the finals in South Africa. In contrast, West Ham striker Carlton Cole is still aiming to secure his place in the 23, should England qualify.

Cole has been named in the past five squads but admits he needs to continue his impressive progression if he is to fully convince Capello of his value to the side.

"I feel I need to take my game to the next level to have a realistic chance of making the World Cup," Cole said. "I feel I've got to take my game to a higher level than I am playing now.

"I'm trying my best. Every day in training I'm trying to improve on different aspects of my game and I know I'm far from the finished article. But hopefully this season will be another stepping stone for me to get up the ladder.

"It's World Cup year and all the strikers here are top-quality strikers and they know what to expect. They have been in this position before. This is the first time I've been involved in something like this. I am happy to be involved and it is a great experience for me.''

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