Wayne Rooney thinks Roy Hodgson's decision to rest players in England's group game against Slovakia at Euro 2016 contributed to their early elimination. The former Three Lions boss opted to rest as many as six first-choice players for the 0-0 in Saint-Etienne – and Rooney has admitted he disagreed with the move.
The captain was among the players who started the match on the bench, and now says England lost momentum in the tournament from that point onwards. He insisted, too, that Hodgson's squad boasted plenty of quality, contrary to what many pundits have since suggested.
"I felt we had a good squad," the Manchester United striker explained, according to the Daily Mail. "A lot of ability, a lot of talent. Yes, we had some young lads and you know there is a risk some won't react as positively at a tournament, but I still thought we could do really well. To then go out as we did, and against Iceland, was beyond disappointing.
"If you leave playing your best, beaten by a better team, I accept that. But we didn't play. We had lost momentum from the Slovakia game and tournament football is about confidence. You get that from winning."
Rooney confirmed he was desperate to play in the game against the Slovaks, but still thinks England ought to have won the match. "We didn't play great in the friendlies, but we won. So you try to build, even from before the tournament — but we couldn't get that consistency once it began," he said.
"It was Roy's decision to make those changes against Slovakia and either way, the team he put out should have been able to win. But, right or wrong, I wanted to play and I can't deny that."
The United star admitted Hodgson's gamble backfired in spectacular fashion. "I wouldn't have rested six players," he said. "It's more than half the team. It was a gamble and it didn't pay off.
When I came on against Slovakia it was difficult to change the game, impossible really. I was running around just trying to get the energy back into the team.
"Watching, I felt we lacked aggression – in the running, in the passing, we didn't have the tempo, so that's what I was trying to create. When you're on the bench it's frustrating because you always think you can bring something different."
England's squad came in for some fierce criticism after they were eliminated by Iceland at the round-of-16 stage. But Rooney has insisted the players were as upset as the fans by their dismal display in France.
"It's not as if we're just turning up and it doesn't hurt when we lose," the United captain shared. "We hurt as much as everyone else, more I'd say. Look at a player like Harry Kane and you can see he cares so much."