Euro 2016: Under-fire Hodgson backed by his captain
Wayne Rooney believes he will be fresher for England's last 16 clash against Iceland thanks to Roy Hodgson's controversial squad rotation at Euro 2016.
Hodgson made six changes for the final Group B clash against Slovakia, including a rest for his captain in midfield, and saw his side held to a goalless draw.
That result left them second behind Wales, with Hodgson heavily criticised in some quarters for changing the team before the job was done.
A meeting with Iceland in Nice on Monday is not the most daunting of punishments but there have been reports that some Football Association board members looked upon the tactic unfavourably.
Rooney himself appeared less than happy as he passed Hodgson at full-time, having come on as a second-half substitute, but insists he backs the manager’s judgement.
“I think it’s a decision we had to make in terms of keeping players fresh for the knockout stages,” he said.
“I respect Roy’s decision to play me or rest me. He’s the manager, it’s his decision, not my decision, and I have to respect that.
“As a player you want to play, of course, but in terms of me now going into the game on Monday I’ll be a lot fresher.
“It’s a great chance for the players who had the rest to use the energy we gained from not playing the 90 minutes and I’m sure that’ll be good for us in the latter stages of the tournament.
“He had a tough call with what he had to do and he decided to leave six players out from the previous game.
“I go along with the manager and respect the decisions he made.”
While England will be heavy favourites to see off Iceland, rated 34th in the world and the smallest nation ever to reach a major finals, the remainder of their potential route looks decidedly tricky.
Hosts France await in the quarter-final should they manage to see off the Republic of Ireland, with one of Spain, Italy or Germany likely to emerge in the last four.
But Rooney believes plotting a possible route to the final is a fool’s errand in a competition that has already seen surprising results from the continent’s lesser lights.
“I’ve seen a lot of words saying that England will have to beat Iceland then France, Spain...whoever. But who says they are going to go through? Who says we are going through?
“This tournament has already thrown up a lot of surprises. If we’re to go further in this competition we’re going to have to beat some very good teams.
“We have to concentrate on Iceland now and try to get the win and see who we face after that.
“By us being in that side of the draw, everyone else in that side will be looking at us rather than us looking at them.”
Rooney is set to win his 115th cap at Stade de Nice, equalling the country’s outfield record set by David Beckham.
At the age of 30 he should soon reel in goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s national record of 125 appearances, particularly having gained a new lease of life in his deeper playmaking position.
“I’m enjoying my football,” he said.
“For me at this tournament it’s a new chapter, a new position. I’m hoping it’s the start of a very good chapter for me in international football.”