England have suffered more than their fair share of World Cup heartache over the years.
One of the Three Lions’ most gut-wrenching World Cup exits happened in 2006. This was a squad which, on paper at least, looked good enough to win the competition.
This was England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’, featuring a host of world-class stars including Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and a 20-year-old Wayne Rooney.
However, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side failed to get past the quarter-final stage after suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen – a match memorable for a hugely controversial incident involving Rooney, Ricardo Carvalho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rooney was sent off for a stamp on Carvalho. Ronaldo, in a bid to get the England striker punished, made it clear to referee Horacio Elizondo what had just happened.
Rooney pushed Ronaldo – clearly shocked that his Manchester United teammate would turn on him like that – and was then shown the red card. Ronaldo then infamously winked towards the Portugal bench – which most England fans presumed meant ‘job done’.
That Ronaldo would go on to score the winning penalty in the shoot-out made the defeat a particularly bitter pill for everyone associated with the England national team to swallow.
Peter Crouch came on as a second-half substitute that day and has provided a detailed account about the aftermath of that game on his latest podcast.
Crouch was convinced that Rooney and Ronaldo would never speak again – let alone play together again – following the red card incident.
“I was on the bus on the way back from the game. We see the footage of him winking and Rooney’s not happy, obviously, he’s fuming – he’s just been played,” the retired striker said on That Peter Crouch Podcast.
“I think that did happen [Rooney texting Ronaldo asking ‘what the f*** was that?’]. There were definitely words exchanged.
“At first he was like ‘I’m never talking to him again’, ‘I’m not going to go back there and speak to him’.
“I remember Gary Neville was angry – obviously a teammate of Ronaldo’s – I remember us being so down and Wayne being gutted about it.”
Crouch continued: “That was the most solemn that I’ve ever seen a bus because we felt we really had a chance in that World Cup. We had so many good players.
“We put up a fight but went out on penalties, so all the penalty takers who missed are inconsolable [on the bus afterwards]. Wayne was devastated and all the lads were out of the World Cup – it was hard to lift the place.”
The former Liverpool striker added: “I left that camp thinking that Rooney and Ronaldo would never speak again. I left that World Cup thinking [Man Utd] would have to sell him. I didn’t think they’d sell Rooney, I thought they’d get a load of money for Ronaldo.
“I just thought Ronaldo has basically cheated him out of it, Wayne was getting a lot of stick back at home after going at the World Cup. I never thought they could ever share the same pitch again.
“And then I watched the season after and they were absolutely unbelievable together.”
Indeed, Ronaldo and Rooney’s on-field relationship went from strength to strength after that tournament.
They went on to win the 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 Premier League titles together, as well as the 2007-08 Champions League.
Full credit must go to the pair of them for the way they handled the situation, especially Rooney.
Few would have blamed the England star had he held a grudge against Ronaldo, but he knew it was in everyone’s interests to forgive and forget.
And that decision ended up benefitting all concerned.
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