England striker Wayne Rooney has hit back at claims from the Russian media that he is not the player he used to be.
The 30-year-old, who is England’s all-time leading goalscorer, has played more of a midfield role this season for his club Manchester United.
It was put to him by a Russian journalist in yesterday’s press conference that today’s opening Euro 2016 opponents no longer fear Rooney.
But Rooney responded by saying: “Everyone who watches football is entitled to opinions.
“I know the qualities I have and I don’t need to sit here and defend myself.
“I’m aware that my game has changed slightly over the years and in my opinion it has changed for the better, but the opinions that matter to me are those of my coaches.”
When asked what qualities he felt England needed for their tricky opener in Marseille, Rooney added in the press conference: “I think resilience. We know how important the first game is. It cost us two years ago (a 2-1 defeat to Italy in World Cup 2014) and in the first game it’s important to get off to a good start.
“We’ve talked about that as a group of players and we are ready for the game tomorrow night.
“You can feel the buzz around the place, everyone is excited for this game and it’s important we go in and take our performance levels into the game and get off to a good start.
“We have a very talented squad that are capable of big things but tournament football is different so I think it’s a big challenge for us as a squad and we’re hoping and we believe we can do well.”
Manager Roy Hodgson, who has yet to reveal his starting line-up to his players, is hoping England can enjoy a long run in the tournament, but was erring on the side of caution when asked how far he felt they could go.
He said: “We want to go as far as we possibly can and we’ll work very hard to play well enough to get as far as we can.
“But you never know what’s going to happen in a football match.”
Hodgson has chosen the youngest England squad for a major tournament for 58 years, with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, 18, and 20-year-old Dele Alli of Tottenham the youngest members.
But 68-year-old Hodgson does not think this influx of youth will count against England.
He said: “They have certainly prepared very well for this tournament, so I can’t ask any more of them. All I can do is keep trying to guide them along the way and hope that they succeed as well as they would like to.”