Wayne Rooney respects Roy Hodgson’s decision to rest him for the goalless draw with Slovakia and challenged England’s players to make their fresh legs count during the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
Rooney was one of six alterations to the side that started the last-gasp win over Wales in Group B, with Hodgson rotating his full-backs, resting Dele Alli alongside Rooney and handing starts up front to Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.
England’s dominance in Saint-Etienne went unrewarded, with the skipper introduced as a second-half substitute, allowing Wales to top the group courtesy of a 3-0 win over Russia.
Rooney and his team-mates face surprise package Iceland in Nice on Monday, but find themselves lumbered in a devilishly hard section of the draw alongside hosts France, champions Spain and Germany.
“It wasn’t just me it was five other players,” he told a news conference at England’s Chantilly base. “It’s a decision that we have to make in terms of keeping players fresh for the knockout stages and believing in the players we’ve got.
“I agree that the 23 players we’ve got are good enough and we should have won the game. You’ve got to give credit to our opponents, they defended really well
“We’re through to the knockout stages and that’s what matters. I respect Roy’s decision. Whether he plays or rests me you, respect that.
“As a player, you want to play. In terms of me, going into Monday I’ll be a lot fresher.
“It’s a great chance now for the players who’ve had the rest to use the energy that they’ve gained from not playing 90 minutes.”
On whether England know what their best XI is, Rooney insisted that was not his question to answer.
“In terms of knowing the best team, that’s a question you have to ask Roy,” he said. “We do need to be a bit more ruthless in terms of the chances that we have.
“As we’ve seen in the last game if you don’t take them they can cost you a result
“Going into the knockout stages, when we get those chances we need to take full advantage of them.”
Should England prevail over Iceland, a potential quarter-final against France in Saint-Denis lies in wait.
Far from being intimidated, Rooney abides by the adage that in order to be the best, you must beat the best.
“We’re confident, we believe we can go to the end in this competition,” he added. “Whether that’s playing the Frances, Spains, Germanys, whoever it is.
“We feel if we play our best we can give anyone a game and we can win. We’re looking at our side of the draw with excitement and confidence.”