50 goals. That's a remarkable achievement for any player at international level for any country. Lionel Messi hasn't done it yet (although he did move to 49 last night), Raul never did it for Spain, Jurgen Klinsmann didn't make it, Diego Maradona got nowhere near it and Thierry Henry only just crept over the line, finishing on 51 goals.
Nobody has done it for Holland and bearing in mind some of the truly great strikers they've had and the number of goals they score normally, that's very surprising. Robin van Persie is currently on 49 though, and he's unlikely not to add one more to that tally. More to the point, even Sir Bobby Charlton didn't reach it.
You can make excuses for most players not reaching the mark: whether it be that they didn't play enough games for their country for whatever reason or that they just didn't perform for their country like they did for their clubs.
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Wayne Rooney has often had that tag placed on his head - 'he just hasn't performed for England.' But he's always there for the Three Lions. He has seven goals in this qualifying campaign, albeit with a few penalties, but someone has to take them. He may not have scored many goals in tournaments since Euro 2004, but his goals have often got England to those tournaments, and he has been a mainstay in the squad since 2004.
You could also argue it's not entirely his fault that he hasn't scored goals in major tournaments. He picked up a metatarsal injury in Euro 2004 which ended his tournament having scored four goals. Since then, he's scored just two goals in major tournaments.
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Out of luck
Just before the World Cup in 2006 he picked up a similar injury and never had a chance to get fit, but he still played and gave his all. England didn't qualify for Euro 2008, were dreadful at the World Cup in 2010 and he was suspended for the opening two matches of Euro 2012. He scored the only goal of the game against Ukraine in the next match and then we were knocked out by Italy on penalties.
2012 and 2014 were tough tournament years for England. Roy Hodgson came in just before the Euros after Fabio Capello left us in the lurch after all that happened with John Terry. We were a squad in transition with lots of exciting players coming through, but Rooney was still there.
One thing that always seems to be said is that Rooney hasn't scored in the big games or that he only scores against the minnows like San Marino. Yes, they are the team he has scored the most goals against, but we've played them a lot in the last few years. But Rooney only actually has 14 goals in friendlies. That means the other 36 have come in competitive fixtures.
It's almost impossible to compare his record against Sir Bobby Charlton's due to the way the international set up is these days compared to back then. People often say things like: 'Well they didn't play as many games back then.' That's simply not true. They have both now played for England for a length of 12 years and Rooney has just one more appearance. They certainly played a lot less competitive games that's for sure. There was little or no qualifying for tournaments, tournaments themselves were much smaller, too.
Rooney's record is often challenged by the fact he now takes penalties but despite his last 2 England goals being penalties, he only has 6 in total. The likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were always well ahead of him in the pecking order until they all retired.
Something that stands out to me is that Rooney has never scored a hat-trick for England. Charlton scored 4 of them in victories over the U.S.A (8-1), Luxembourg (9-0), Mexico (8-0) and Switzerland (8-1). Other than Luxembourg, those teams aren't exactly described as minnows these days, but they clearly were back then. Unless you're playing Gibraltar, teams just don't win international matches that easily anymore.
I'm not trying to detriment Charlton's record at all, I'm sure he would have been criticised if he didn't score those goals in those matches. You can only score against who you play, it's just how it is and this is why the two shouldn't be compared. He did score both goals in the World Cup semi-final in '66 though, something Rooney is never likely to achieve, let alone win the trophy itself.
What you can do, however, is compare Rooney with some of the strikers he's competed against over the years. He began his career competing with the likes of Michael Owen (40) and Emile Heskey (7) and has since seen players like Jermain Defoe (19), Peter Crouch (22) come and go. Since then he's managed to keep his place in the team despite the emergence of Theo Walcott (7), Danny Welbeck (14) and Daniel Sturridge (5).
In the squad for the two games over this international break, Walcott was the next highest goalscorer in the squad with his seven goals. Many still call for Rooney to be dropped, even with Welbeck and Sturridge out injured, how on earth could we drop someone with that kind of pedigree? He might not be at his best anymore, but he's still one of our best players, I think we just always expect more from him and when he doesn't produce the level we want, many think it's simply not good enough.
Euro 2016 is arguably the last real chance of England achieving something with Rooney at the head of the team and with a 100% record in qualifying, the only team to do so, we have every reason to be optimistic. I'm not saying we can win it, but we have a good chance of doing better than in previous tournaments. With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Harry Kane, we have exciting players who will certainly worry every defence in the tournament. They just need to perform.Rooney could continue to play for, and captain this England side until the World Cup in 2018, perhaps even further.
Now he's got the record, the goals will continue to come and he could end up with 60 or more goals for his country, which will be remarkable. As for caps, he should play at least 20 matches in that time, taking him past Peter Shilton's all-time record. These are the kind of records which will stand for years to come, as Charlton's and Shilton's records have and yet we may not appreciate that fully until he has hung up his boots.
The only current player likely to get anywhere near that is Joe Hart, who at 28, is likely to play for a lot longer than Rooney if he can keep hold of the number one spot. As for goals, the only current player capable is Harry Kane. He's got three in four so far, but at 22 years old, Rooney was already well on his way with 14 goals for England, so Kane has some catching up to do.
So here's to a great career so far for our all-time goalscorer, and hopefully there's many more to come.
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