Football: The Wonder of Wayne Show; but the Welsh Apparently Fail to Turn Up for Old Trafford's World Cup Showdown No Wonder We Don't Have Home Internationals Any More. We Want Contests - Len Capeling - the Afternoon Began to Self-Destruct before a Ball Had Even Been Kicked - Mickey Thomas
Byline: LEN CAPELING
ON a day when the wonder of Wayne, rather than the wonder of Wales, kept us enthralled, the real regret was that England's most important player didn't score the hat-trick he threatened throughout this World Cup walkover.
At 18, Wayne Rooney has made himself the fountain from which so many fine things flow for Sven-Goran Eriksson's side.
Positioned just behind one out-and-out striker - it would have been two had Jermain Defoe ever showed - he dispensed possession so well that his supposed man marker - former Goodison team-mate Mark Pembridge - became dizzy and needed to be put out of his misery before the end.
In this mood, Rooney is simply too potent and powerful to be contained.
He makes his own rules. Inside his head he is three moves ahead of his opponent, as he showed with surging runs beyond the front men.
Wales did make things comfortable for England with an astonishingly bloodless approach. Devoid of passion, there was never a hint of the Dragons' fire.
That assisted Rooney in his free-ranging role - of course it did.
But the boy-prince has shone against better teams than Mark Hughes was able to put out.
If he wasn't playing Michael Owen through the narrowest of gaps, he was striding forward towards mere mortals, who saw a hurricane approaching and wanted nothing more than to hide from it.
One dazzling raid took him past three despairing defenders before a shot raked just wide.
Paul Jones had a last-second glimpse of a 30-yard piled river from Rooney that smashed through his hands and slammed against the post to his right.
Danny Gabbidon, possibly Wales' best player, finally erred for once in not ferrying the ball away, but then scurried back on to the line to deflect Rooney's goal bound drive away after Owen and David Beckham both fluffed chances.
The beauty of Rooney is he always demands the ball because he believes he can do most with it.
And he's seldom wrong on that score. He showed his greenness only once when he chose to shoot from the worst of positions, Jones saving well as the swiftly arriving Owen, Beckham and Defoe clutched hands to their head in horror.
Nothing worked for the Welsh in a week when a dozy EC draughts man removed the nation from a new map of Europe.
Their over-cautious strategy offered England too much of the ball while their attempts to win some width, via Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, never materialised.
That left Wales with a single option - to hump the ball high down field in the faint hope of locating the bullet head of John Hartson, who had one of his most unproductive days for his country. …