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Wayne Rooney has never made it past the quarter-finals of a major international tournament.

Since bursting onto the scene at Euro 2004, Rooney has seen his side come unstuck at the quarter-final stage twice at the European championships.

Can Wayne Rooney finally lead England to Euro 2016 glory?In 2008, England spectacularly failed to qualify.

Wild optimism generally abounds at this stage of the tournament. An exciting young squad boasting the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling will give England fans further cause for excitement. It is a squad that threatens to do the unlikely, the impossible, to take England into the last four of a major tournament. It is a distinct possibility.

For all the accolades won by their young and precocious stars, England’s most important player remains Wayne Rooney. Just how Rooney will figure in Roy Hodgson’s plans remains to be seen. What is certain is that he will have a huge role to play.

Kane and Vardy managed more goals in the Premier League last season than Manchester United’s entire squad. Hodgson would be hard-pressed to leave either of those men out. Alli burst onto the scene as a fearless attacking-midfielder. Sterling is brimming with attacking talent and according to his coach, Daniel Sturridge is a natural finisher. Let’s not forget Rashford, for whom no stage is too large. Hodgson is blessed with attacking pieces.

Despite this, Rooney has excelled as a striker for England in recent months, netting 12 goals in 15 England appearances since the last World Cup. He is now officially his country’s most prolific striker and has the ability to set a record that might not be broken for at least the next decade.

Despite this, his goalscoring record in major tournaments remains poor. His poor form at World Cup’s is well documented. Hodgson will not rely on Rooney for goals like past England teams have. The squad has deep attacking and goalscoring talent. What is required is leadership. This is what will determine how we should view Rooney’s tournament.

It seems likely that Rooney will be forced to drop deeper to accommodate the next generation of English talent. He is more than capable of fulfilling that role, which he played with distinction this season for Manchester United. Rooney offered the Red Devils passing and vision in midfield that had been missing since the departure of Paul Scholes.

He has also not lost any of his drive and ability to dribble past players. His run to set up Juan Mata’s equaliser in the FA Cup final could have gone down as one of the great moments in the Cup’s history were it not overshadowed by Lingard’s excellent winner.

England will need that drive and inspiration if they are to progress deep into this tournament. In an open field, there are many outstanding sides who will all make their case to be champion. England are coming from a long way back and will need their inspirational skipper to be at his best if they are to be any chance.

England and Rooney have struggled to live up to the hype in major tournaments to date. Time is running out on one of English football’s greatest careers for Rooney to add international acclaim to a simply sensational club career.

Few players in the modern era have had a more divisive effect on pundits as to whether they have lived up to their talent. This is Rooney’s chance to silence his doubters once and for all. If Rooney can channel the focus and determination that led to his match saving run in the FA Cup final, then English hopes of glory will be alive and well.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Ockie Daniell for Outside 90
Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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