Houllier: Rooney form cost England

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Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier believes Wayne Rooney's poor World Cup explains England's abysmal performance in South Africa.

Fabio Capello's side crashed out of the tournament with a 4-1 drubbing by Germany in the second round and Houllier insists England's stars failed to deliver, singling out the Manchester United striker, who drew a blank and struggled throughout, for individual criticism.

"Probably the key to understanding why England didn't perform at the World Cup is that the top players didn't do as well as we could expect them to," he told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme. "I'm thinking mainly about Wayne Rooney. He's an outstanding player but whether he was tired or wasn't in good shape I don't know."

He added: "If Rooney, who for me is a top player and finisher, had scored a few more goals maybe...

"If you look at the teams with one or two top finishers - Germany, Holland or Spain - they usually go forward. Uruguay went so far because of Diego Forlan.

"England were also unlucky because of the goal that was disallowed against Germany. It was a good goal."

Houllier insists the benefits of a winter break, which Fabio Capello said was needed in the Barclays Premier League following England's exit, were made clear by the identity of the semi-finalists.

"Of the teams that reached the semi-finals, Germany, Holland and Spain had a break of at least two weeks over the Christmas period or new year," he said.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Premier League
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