LONDON (AFP) – Wayne Rooney admits England can’t afford a slow start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Switzerland on Monday.
Roy Hodgson’s team head to Basel desperately in need of a strong performance and result to erase the bitter taste of their miserable World Cup campaign.
The road to the Euros in France starts with a potentially tricky clash with the Swiss, who are likely to be England’s only serious rivals to win Group E.
Switzerland — who only lost to an Angel di Maria goal for Argentina in the dying minutes of extra-time of their last 16 World Cup clash — are ranked ninth in the world and are the bookmakers favourites to win Monday’s encounter at St Jakob-Park against an England team still suffering from a World Cup hangover.
After a lacklustre 1-0 friendly win over Norway in midweek was greeted with criticism, England boss Hodgson cut a tetchy figure as he swore at reporters who questioned his team’s lack of shots on target.
Against that depressing backdrop, England captain Rooney knows his side can’t afford to let the post-World Cup negativity linger any longer.
“It is important to start the qualifying campaign off with a good result,” Rooney said.
“It is important to try and win the game, but I think not to get beat and give Switzerland the upper hand from the first game is vital.”
The English public’s apathy in the wake of the World Cup was highlighted by the fact Wednesday’s friendly against Norway attracted Wembley’s lowest crowd for an international since the stadium’s opening in 2007.
To make matters worse, the 40,181 that did turn up were hardly wowed as England’s display lacked inspiration and quality.
However, Manchester United striker Rooney is confident that good times are around the corner, pointing to the spirit and excitement brought by the performance in the World Cup opener against Italy, even if the game in Manaus ended in defeat.
“It’s exciting times,” he said. “The Italy and Uruguay games were disappointing results, but I thought we did well in both games.
“It could have gone either way, but we lost and we’re out. We played some great attacking football.
“The lads who were at that tournament have gained vital experience from the tournament.”