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Rooney Impresses in Euro 2004 Debut

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Giving what might be a sneak preview to July 29 and August 1 when Everton F.C. comes to Houston to take on Pachuca and Club America, 18 year old Wayne Rooney gave glimpses of his immense talent in a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to France in their Group B opener at the European Championships.

Taking a page out of their stunning 2000 European Championship win, France left it late to stun England and it's fans on two stoppage time goals by French great Zinedine Zidane.

England who had defended Zidane and Arsenal star Thierry Henry about as well as they could have expected were denied a 2-0 lead after David Beckham was saved from the penalty spot by former teammate Fabien Barthez after Wayne Rooney was brought down by French defender Mikael Silvestre.

So what was Rooney's Euro 2004 debut like?

The 18-year-old coming into this tournament was hailed as no other than the next Pele by former Brazilian legend Zico.

The lead up pressure has been immense world-wide .

Many wondered how the youngster would handle it.

And handle it he did.

Rooney seemed to play beyond his years against France.

Glimpses of his brilliance were seen during the match through his explosiveness on the ball and his physical maturity, where his strength was definetly an asset on the ball.

The timeliness of his explosive run into the penalty area was impressive when he put French defender Silvestre in a moment of indecision elicting the ill timed tackle that led to the penalty.

I have spoken to Landon Donovan on occasion about the 2002 World Cup and the confidence he and his partner in crime young DaMarcus Beasley had playing against world powers.

Clearly youth and being naïve to the situation was an advantage.

I am not sure that it was the same with Rooney but he certainly did not look awed by the situation.

His partnership with Michael Owen still seems to be a work in progress for England but let's not forget, this was a game where ball possession clearly favored the French and the opportunities to attack for England were rare.

Organized, compact defending was the England mantra.

Sure it's not Shearer and Sheringham yet, nor is it Lineker and Beardsley but something tells me Rooney and Owen will do some damage Thursday against Switzerland in a must win game.

The fact that Rooney seemed efficiently dangerous during his times on the ball convinced me of his value for England.

England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson replaced Rooney in the second half for two reasons.

At a Monday Euro 2004 press conference he stated the the reason he subbed out Rooney was a need for fresh players but he was also concerned that Rooney could be potentially sent off under the difficult conditions and didn't want to risk it.

He went on to stay that Rooney was fantastic

Many will look forward to Rooney's visit with Everton this summer to Reliant Stadium.

I for one have it blocked out on my calendar but for right now I am focused on seeing how he responds to a devasting loss when England takes on Switzerland this Thursday.

Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well.  He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show on 90.1KPFT FM Radio every Sunday from 5-6 pm.  Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.


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