England captain Wayne Rooney believes it is vitally important to start the European Championship qualifying campaign with a positive result in Switzerland.
Just 76 days after their disastrous World Cup campaign came to an end, thoughts have turned to the next major tournament, in France.
Switzerland are ranked ninth in the world and are favourites at the bookmakers to win tomorrow’s encounter at St Jakob-Park – something Rooney, pictured, knows they cannot let happen.
“It is important to start the qualifying campaign off with a good result,” he said. “It is important to try and win the game, but I think not to get beat and give Switzerland the upper hand from the first game is vital.”
The public’s apathy for England was highlighted by the fact Wednesday’s 1-0 friendly win against Norway attracted Wembley’s lowest crowd for an international since the stadium’s opening in 2007.
Furthermore, the 40,181 that did turn up were hardly wowed as the England display lacked inspiration and quality.
However, Rooney is confident that good times are around the corner, pointing to the spirit and excitement brought by the performance in the World Cup opener against Italy, even if the game in Manaus ended in defeat.
“It’s exciting times,” he said. “The Italy and Uruguay games were disappointing results, but I thought we did well in both games. It could have gone either way, but we lost and we’re out. We played some great attacking football. The lads who were at that tournament have gained vital experience from the tournament.”
The pressure is now on such players to step up to the plate, with the retirement of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole compounded by a raft of injuries.
Those problems have worsened further in recent days, with West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster and uncapped Newcastle midfielder Jack Colback forced to withdraw from the squad. Things got worse still on Friday, when Daniel Sturridge sustained a thigh complaint in training. After a scan, the 25-year-old returned to Liverpool for treatment, further reducing their options for the match in Basle.
Posting via his account, @D_Sturridge, he said: “Heartbroken soul right now believe me. Hopefully be back soon fighting fit for LFC. Nothing worse than being injured. My heads gone”