Wayne Rooney: Man Utd legend was incredible for England at Euro 2004

Alongside Patrick Vieira, Wayne Rooney was confirmed as the latest inductee to the Premier League Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

A five-time winner of the English top-flight, Rooney is also the second-highest scorer in the competition’s history.

Rooney made the first of his 491 Premier League appearances on August 17, 2002, representing his boyhood club Everton against Tottenham Hotspur.

Such was Rooney’s meteoric rise afterwards that he made his senior debut for England less than six months later.

Then-Three Lions boss Sven-Goran Eriksson handed Rooney his international bow during a friendly with Australia in February 2003 – and the youngster never looked back.

The emergence of Rooney couldn’t have come at a better time for his country, with Euro 2004 clearly on the horizon.

LISBON, PORTUGAL – JUNE 21: Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with David Beckham after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Euro 2004, Group B match between Croatia and England at the Luz Stadium on June 21, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Called upon by Eriksson to represent England at the tournament in Portugal, Rooney certainly made his mark on the international stage.

Speaking during filming for his recent self-titled Amazon Prime documentary, Rooney revealed that he entered the competition with no shortage of confidence.

“Heading into the tournament, at 18, I remember thinking ‘I’m the best player in the world …There’s nobody better than me’ – and I believed it at the time,” said Rooney.

SKOPJE, MACEDONIA – SEPTEMBER 6: Wayne Rooney of England celebrates scoring a goal during the Euro 2004 qualifying match between Macedonia and England in the City Stadium on September 5, 2003 in Skopje, Macedonia. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Those words are more than backed up by his highlights from the tournament.

For most up-and-coming players, a showdown with France in your first ever competitive match would be a daunting prospect, particularly when that French side boasts the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry in their ranks.

Not Rooney, though, who seemed to treat the whole occasion like a casual game of five-a-side with his mates.

LISBON, PORTUGAL – JUNE 21: Wayne Rooney of England clashes with Dario Simic of Croatia during the UEFA Euro 2004, Group B match between Croatia and England at the Luz Stadium on June 21, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Getting the better of the likes of Pires and Makelele with ease, Rooney wasn’t going to let the occasion get to him. He even cheekily nutmegged the majestic Zidane.

After running the show for his country, Rooney was withdrawn by Eriksson with 14 minutes remaining. England led 1-0 at the time but were eventually beaten thanks to a late brace from Zidane.

The result was naturally a setback for Rooney and England. However, the young superstar was still voted Man of the Match for his performance against Les Bleus.

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Rooney also claimed that same award in England’s other two Group B fixtures against Switzerland and Croatia, scoring twice in both matches to propel the Three Lions into the quarter-finals.

You can check out highlights of Rooney’s magnificent showings during the Euro 2004 group stage below.

Watch: Wayne Rooney in spectacular form at Euro 2004

England got off to a fantastic start in their last-eight clash with Portugal, taking the last after just three minutes. Things went downhill rapidly for Eriksson’s men, though, when Rooney was forced off with an injury on the 20-minute mark.

Ultimately, England were knocked out on penalties, rounding off Rooney’s first major tournament experience on a sour note.

That said, the youngster had already shown himself to be one of the brightest prospects in world football. Almost inevitably, Rooney was named as part of the official Euro 2004 Team of the Tournament.

LISBON, PORTUGAL – JUNE 21: Wayne Rooney of England celebrates after scoring the third goal during the UEFA Euro 2004, Group B match between Croatia and England at the Luz Stadium on June 21, 2004 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2014, Rooney admitted that the tournament had given him his greatest moments in an England shirt.

“My debut at such a young age and the Euro 2004 was the stand-out tournament for me because I scored four goals,” he revealed.

With less than eight months to go until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, England’s latest crop of young talent including Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Reece James and Bukayo Saka will be hopeful of making a similar impact to that which Rooney managed in 2004.

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