In the Box

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After the end of the England against Croatia match this past Monday I realized I had witnessed the genius of an 18-year-old. 

England's Wayne Rooney has arrived on the international scene.

Having been tipped by none other Brazilian legends Pele and Zico as a player to be watched during Euro 2004 many wondering if an 18-year-old could live up to the press clippings.

Wonder no more as the legend of Everton's Wayne Rooney grows!

Rooney sparkled in the devasting 2-1 loss to France in their Group B opener and showed glimpses of what was to come.

Against Switzerland it was two Rooney goals that led the way in a 3-0 victory.

But on Monday we saw the work of genius and it was hard not to be in awe.

In the 4-2 victory over Croatia, England, led by Rooney, guaranteed its passage into the quarterfinals against the host nation Portugal.

"It's the Wayne Rooney show at the moment," said legendary Arsenal striker turned commentator Ian Wright. "He is the best player in the tournament for me."

Wright is right!

Rooney is well on his way to putting his name next to the England legends like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks, Alan Shearer, and Michael Owen.

David Beckham who?

Against Croatia, England had some nervous moments when they went down 1-0 early but the genius of the 18-year-old brought them back and provided the inspiration and confidence that England rode to victory.

In the eighth minute Rooney operating in that "magical zone called the hole" with quick feet elusively lost three Croatians and slipped a beautifully weighted pass to Paul Scholes who nearly scored.

Five minutes later Rooney then got off a threatening shot which represented a harbinger of things to come.

More from Rooney came in the 35th minute when his sharp header was timing and reminded the Croatians of his aerial play.

It all came to fruition four minutes later when Everton's Rooney wisely heading a ball across the face of the Croatian goal to Manchester United's Paul Scholes who headed in past Croatian goalkeeper Tomislav Butina.

England 1 Croatia 1.

Not that that was enough, Rooney after receiving a pass at the top of the box then hit an absolute bomb to give England a 2-1 lead heading into the locker.

The pride of Everton had put the "three lions" on his back and put them in the lead.

Not only that, he had restored confidence and proclaimed that on this day England would not be beaten.

In the second half Rooney would then work a perfectly played give n go at the halfway line with strike partner Michael Owen and was in behind the Croatia defense.

In the ensuing one on one confrontation with Croatian keeper Butina, Rooney was a cool as ice, as he accurately slipped his finish past the Croatian for his second goal of the match leading England to a 4-2 victory.

Rooney has what all the greats have.

Explosive pace, great feet, and power to go along with skill.

In this match he convinced us with the variety of his all around talents that he has brought to Sven Goran-Erikkson's England set-up.

He showed us that through great passing skills that he can be a distributor.

He showed us that with great tight control he can deal with limited time and space in tight areas.

He showed us he is a goal scorer of variety.

A goal of power was accented with a goal of cool accuracy and calm.

He showed us he can combine with others.

He showed us that with wise movement he could find a lot of the ball despite Croatia trying to take the edge of his game.

He showed us he could be a leader through his performance.

This was a teenager playing with maturity beyond his years.

So as I watch the highlights of his surging runs, calm and powerful finishing, skillful and creative passing and dribbling I can easily agree with this comment from English commentator and former Liverpool great Alan Hansen.

"This is a boy that has it all."

Rooney's market value according to Everton F.C. is in the neighborhood of $70 million.

As the star of the Euro 2004 Championships how exciting is it for us to know that he will come to Houston with Everton this summer!

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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