Rooney failed against Italy, says Maradona

The England striker has come in for criticism for his performance in his side’s World Cup opener while the Argentina legend praised Roy Hodgson’s decision to start Raheem Sterling

Diego Maradona believes Wayne Rooney failed on the biggest stage as England fell to a 2-1 defeat to Italy on Saturday.

Roy Hodgson opted to start the Manchester United striker on the left wing in Manaus for his side’s Group D opener, with Rooney coming in for criticism for his failure to adequately shield full-back Leighton Baines from the marauding threat of Antonio Candreva, who provided the cross for Mario Balotelli’s winner.

And Maradona has joined the list of the 28-year-old’s critics, writing in his Times of India column: “It was an entertaining encounter where both teams tried to attack. Italy had more possession, but the young England side was remarkably speedy when they had the ball.

“Rooney, who is yet to score a World Cup goal, failed to produce the magic that was expected of him.”

However, the Argentina legend – who famously dumped England out of the 1986 World Cup – praised Hodgson’s decision to select Raheem Sterling, and backed the Three Lions to take their good form into their do-or-die clash with Uruguay on Thursday.

“Hodgson gambled with Sterling and his move paid off,” he added. “In Euro 2012 the Italy-England match was totally dominated by the Azzurri, but on Saturday it was different.

“England showed their intent and with Uruguay’s surprise 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica, Hodgson’s team will have to play for survival against [Oscar] Tabarez’s Uruguay in Sao Paulo.”

Yet Maradona reserved his most effusive praise for Andrea Pirlo, who dominated the midfield at the age of 35 and almost scored for Italy with a gravity-defying free kick late on.

“Pirlo’s late free kick had beaten Hart and hit the bar,” he added. “It could have increased the margin of victory. Pirlo played a near-perfect match in his role of regista – one who controls the flow of the team’s offensive play.

“No matter how hard England tried to equalise, it was too much for them.”

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