Pele Platini Maradona.....Rooney? Could the 19-Year Old Englishman be "The Next Great One"?

LONDON (AP) - Wayne Rooney didn't score a single goal to get England to the World Cup.

He's still considered the country's biggest hope of winning it.

England climbed out of a four-game slump by beating Poland 2-1 on Wednesday and goes to Germany 2006 as a qualifying group winner. Although he didn't score against the Poles Rooney left defenders mesmerized by his running dribbling shooting and passing.

A teenager with the vision of a 30-year-old Rooney already is being hailed as England's equivalent of Diego Maradona or Michel Platini. Zico a veteran of three Brazilian World Cup teams compared the 19-year-old Manchester United forward with Brazilian hero Pele.

"He has the potential to be a legendary player said Zico who has managed Japan into the 2006 World Cup.

"One of Pele's great qualities what that he could take any situation in his stride. From [what] I have seen of Wayne I think he can do that too. Great players have the habit of always being able to rise to the big occasions. Like Pele used to they puff out their chests and show the world who is in charge."

Former England coach and Tottenham midfielder Glenn Hoddle says Rooney will have the same impact with England as Platini had with France and Maradona with Argentina. As a skillful goalscoring forward Platini led France to its 1984 European Championship triumph while Maradona's memorable goals and astonishing dribbling skills were the highlights of Argentina's 1986 World Cup success.

"He's an extra special player. What he does is raise the standard that's what Platini did for France and Maradona for Argentina Hoddle said.

"If you look at every team to win the World Cup they have an extra-special player who can lift the team. We had Bobby Charlton in 1966. A player who can lift us to another level."

Ten days short of his 20th birthday Rooney already has played 27 times for his country while he has had fans teammates coaches and rivals gasping with admiration for his skill on the ball and his memorable goals.

Then there is the other Wayne Rooney.

Pugnacious and intimidating Rooney has a short fuse. Only weeks after becoming the youngest Premier League goalscorer at age 16 he was the youngest to get sent off. Last month the Manchester United star was ejected by Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen for sarcastically applauding the official in his face for giving him a yellow card.

But Rooney's teammates and even Poland coach Pawel Janas said that dark side is a plus.

"Rooney is one of the best players in the world at the moment Janas said as his team lost for the second time to England in their World Cup qualifying group. "He has his own temperament but I think that his temperament helps him be a great player."

What he may lack in social skills Rooney more than makes up for with his ability with a soccer ball.

The teenager whose wonder goal on his debut for Everton as a 16-year-old ended Arsenal's 30-game winning run three seasons ago seems to have every attribute.

He runs at defenders and dribbles past them shoots powerfully from long range or bends the ball from free kicks. He has the vision to find teammates with expertly-timed passes or turn past opponents with one touch. Rooney who scored three goals in his Champions League debut last season is powerful both on the ground and in the air and has the build and ability to shield the ball from opponents for several seconds so that he can bring colleagues into play.

Like most great players Rooney doesn't shout about his ability and prefers his talent to speak for him.

"I hope I am storing the goals up for next summer [at the World Cup] he said. "It is a massive tournament and I want to go there and try and do the best I can and score some goals."


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