RIO DE JANEIRO — As England endures its worst World Cup for more than 50 years, Wayne Rooney wants his teammates to remember the pain of this campaign.
England is already out of contention after losses to Italy and Uruguay, its run lasting less than a week. Not since 1958 had England failed to make it to the second round of a World Cup it qualified for.
This is considered a debacle in a country where expectations, as the game’s inventor and host of the richest league, seemingly surpass its football abilities.
With its only title coming at the 1966 World Cup on home soil, is there hope for the English?
“It’s vital we take the pain we are feeling now and remember that and the next tournament we don’t want to feel that again,” Rooney said Saturday.
But addressing the long-term malaise will take longer. A new crop of defenders can’t be produced in two years to complement the young — at times exhilarating — attacking players breaking into the national team.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke spent months producing a report which outlined ways to ensure Premier League teams are playing more Englishmen, but some of the plans quickly unraveled and he wasn’t made available to the media on Saturday as the scrutiny on the national team intensified.
For now, with another game in Group D still to be played against surprise leader Coast Rica on Tuesday, the squad can’t even escape Brazil. Instead, Rooney, alongside goalkeeper Joe Hart, led the public apologies to the England fans who followed them to south America.
“Obviously we are hurting,” Rooney said. “We are really disappointed to be out of the tournament. I am sure you can imagine it’s quite tough, a long few days for us … but we have to be strong together as a team. We have to make sure we are positive for the next game.”
For Hart, England’s 2-1 losses in Brazil rank among his worst moments in football. England’s early elimination was sealed by Italy losing 1-0 to Costa Rica on Friday.
“It’s a strange empty feeling,” Hart said. “This is ultimately really cruel and gutting for me.”
There doesn’t seem there’ll be any change in the dugout. Roy Hodgson is set to remain in charge, with the FA asking the coach to see out his contract to the 2016 European Championship. Rooney has seen signs of progress under Hodgson, who took charge before Euro 2012, where England lost the quarterfinals in a shootout.
“He has put a great enthusiasm in the team, a great set of young players, exciting players in place,” Rooney said. “Make no doubt about it, Roy is the man to take us forward. We appreciate what he has done for us.
“He has changed the way we have played over the last couple of years and I know the results have been disappointing in the last two games, but as a team we can feel we are getting better. I feel with the young lads in the squad, this will help them.”
Rooney, who scored against Uruguay to finally end his World Cup goal drought, will hope to be back at the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
“I never want to pull out of squads,” the Manchester United forward said. “I always turn up and play for England when I am called upon. I have no desire whatsoever to stop doing that unless I am told to. I will play for England until I am not selected.”