Roo: England have genuine chance
Wayne Rooney insists England are genuine contenders for Euro 2012 as he prepares to return for the national side.
Rooney: Thinks England are good enough
Following the sorry World Cup demise in South Africa two years ago, there has been a general lessening in expectations around the Three Lions.
It offers some reason for the vastly-reduced numbers travelling around to watch their group games, which culminate in a meeting with the co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday.
A point would be enough for Roy Hodgson's men to secure a quarter-final berth.
However Rooney sees no reason to adopt a negative attitude.
"I've said it before. I think we're good enough," he said.
"I know no-one wants to build up expectations but I firmly believe we've got the players.
"Before the tournament started I said a country like ours needs to be in there with a shout of winning major tournaments.
"Obviously you need a bit of luck as well, but we've got a good opportunity. We've got the squad and are more organised than we have been as long as I've been in the squad.
"We are hard to beat now. If we keep doing that and keep working hard then there's no reason we can't go really far and be in with a shout of winning it."
Not even the prospect of facing Spain in the last eight worries Rooney, despite the fact it is a side built around the Barcelona team who outplayed Manchester United in two Champions League finals in three years.
"You have to play the best teams if you want to win tournaments," he said.
"How much of a boost would it be for us if we did play them and beat them? How much confidence would that give us?
"We just have to cope."
Clearly, Rooney's return from suspension offers England a major lift.
Rooney may not have scored in a major tournament since his explosion on Euro 2004 as a teenager, yet there is no doubting the importance Roy Hodgson places upon him.
Hodgson is considering naming the 26-year-old as his official vice-captain and has already guaranteed Rooney a starting berth on Tuesday where, if statistics are any guide, he will be partnered by Danny Welbeck.
The duo started 22 Manchester United games together in all competitions, in which Rooney and Welbeck scored an incredible 33 goals between them. On their last 15 outings at least one of them found the net.
United won 19 of those matches, and lost only once, that 6-1 mauling by Manchester City.
So, whilst Andy Carroll could count himself extremely unfortunate to miss out, it is hard to see Hodgson ignoring such figures.
"We obviously know each other and have a good understanding," said Rooney.
"Danny's biggest strength is running behind defences. He is so quick. If he gets behind you he is difficult to catch.
"He has got great feet and is also capable of coming short and linking in the play which leads me to get in behind.
"Defences don't know which player is going to go short or long."
And Welbeck's confidence is soaring too after that sensational back-heeled winner against Sweden.
"It was a great goal," said Rooney.
"It is funny. He was anxious at half-time because he wasn't getting any chances.
"I told him it was important not to get annoyed because his chance will come."
Rooney feels it is equally important for him to avoid the temptation to try and stamp his mark on Tuesday's game too early given he has not played a competitive game in five weeks.
"I need to feel my way into the game for 20 minutes, make sure my touch is right and do the simple things," he said.
"Then when I get towards the last half of the game hopefully I can create and score goals."
The temptation must be great though, particularly as he has not scored a tournament goal for eight years, during which time he has got sent off in one World Cup and abused England fans at another.
"I set myself high standards," he said.
"In international tournaments I haven't been good enough."
And at least he will be able to operate from a platform of serenity, with England's city centre base in Krakow, following a relatively short build-up, far more to his liking than the remoteness of Rustenburg two years ago, which followed a two-week training camp.
"Everyone has been fine," he said.
"The tournament feels a lot shorter, whereas South Africa felt like it was dragging out.
"We went to Austria for two weeks before the World Cup and by the time we got to the tournament your head has gone a bit already.
"All the squad are happy here. It is a happy camp at the moment."