FIFA panel hails Rooney's World Cup performance
Despite coming under fierce criticism for failing to set the World Cup alight, Wayne Rooney has received a commendation from FIFA for his performances in South Africa, and was named as one of England's three best players at the tournament.
Having been crowned the PFA Footballer of the Year for a series of scintillating displays for Manchester United during the 2009-10 season, the 24-year-old striker was expected to be England's talisman at the finals.
But Rooney failed to find the net in South Africa and was lambasted for his surprisingly uninfluential performances and for openly criticising fans who booed the team following their dismal 0-0 draw with Algeria.
However, FIFA's 16-man technical study group reached a somewhat different conclusion, singling out Rooney for praise as a "hard-working, energetic striker; [who] worked hard for the team; good technique", nominating the goalless forward as one of England's three players of the tournament.
The study group, which included former France and Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier and the former Scotland boss Andy Roxburgh, also hailed the England team as having "strong, hard-working players" whose "aerial strength [was] used effectively at set pieces in defence".
England captain Steven Gerrard was hailed as the Three Lions' most influential player, with the group describing him as "a dynamic midfielder with good vision and technique, who linked defence and attack". Ashley Cole was commended as the third of England's "outstanding players", described as "a competitive left-back with good technique, [who] made forceful attacking runs".
FIFA's report is sure to raise a few eyebrows, though there can be little arguing with their assessment of World Cup winners Spain, who were praised for being "a complete team, arguably contenders for team of the century."
Speaking ahead England's Euro 2010 qualifier against Bulgaria at Wembley, manager Fabio Capello seemed to contradict FIFA's verdict when claimed he had been encouraged by the Manchester United striker's return to form - insinuating he wasn't at his best at the World Cup.
"I monitored him during the last game that he played against West Ham," said Capello. "He's good, he's back and I'm happy because he scored a goal. Rooney runs a lot around the pitch, he's free to move where he decides to go. Rooney will play on Friday in style."