The Remarkable Yin And Yang Of Wayne Rooney And Jermain Defoe's International Careers

A 2017 England squad including Jermain Defoe and excluding Wayne Rooney would’ve been unimaginable 10 years ago.

It’s June 2004, and England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has just confirmed his squad for EURO 2004 in Portugal. The 23-man team is highlighted by 18-year-old Everton sensation Wayne Rooney. Aston Villa forward Darius Vassell, although an injury doubt, has been named in the squad at the expense of 21-year-old Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe.

After scoring four goals in four matches and being named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament, England supporters are left to wonder what might’ve been had Rooney not suffered a broken bone in their quarterfinal defeat to Portugal. Coincidentally, Vassell replaced Rooney in that match and missed England’s last spot-kick in the penalty shootout.

Rooney was subsequently heralded as the player to end all those years of English hurt. He was the savior. Defoe, meanwhile, was left on the outside looking in. Thus would begin a series of contrasting international experiences: Rooney consistently included for disappointment after disappointment while Defoe was hindered by his reputation as a one-dimensional player. He could only score goals — that was his curse. 

At the 2006 World Cup, Rooney’s rushed recovery from a foot injury meant that he was cleared to play at the tournament. As a result, Defoe, named on the five-man standby list as Rooney's replacement, was sent home before the tournament started. Rooney was red carded against Portugal in the quarterfinals and England crashed out.

Defoe was again named on the standby list for the 2014 World Cup, but he again missed out. Defoe later stated that he “likely won’t ever get over the decision. I don’t think I’ll ever be at peace with it.” Rooney's contribution at that tournament was England's lone goal in a defeat to Uruguay. England crashed out in the group stage.


After scoring 15 goals for Sunderland during the 2015-16 campaign, single-handedly saving them from relegation, Defoe was left-off England’s now infamous EURO 2016 team. Rooney's contribution was the lone goal against Iceland scored from the penalty spot.

And now, almost 13 years after their respective international roles had been assigned and written in the stars, we have this: England’s latest squad for a friendly against Germany and a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

Jermain Defoe, 34, is in the squad with a record of 14 goals in 24 Premier League matches this season. 

Wayne Rooney, England’s record goalscorer but also mainstay of a team that hasn’t won a knockout game since 2006, has lost his place and his captaincy. 

With Dele Alli, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley all playing the role of No. 10 at a much higher level than Rooney, who’s only scored two EPL goals this season, we’ve come full circle but with a twist.

Thirteen years on from Euro 2004 it’s Jermain Defoe with an England spot, and Wayne Rooney is left looking in.  

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