Wayne Rooney got what he deserved
LONDON -- No matter how hard he tries, Wayne Rooney can't stay out of trouble. And as a result, England's chances of ending a dismal run at major tournaments hit a major snag. Rooney's three-game suspension, dished out by UEFA on Thursday, means he'll miss the group stage of Euro 2012. It's a painful, perhaps fatal, blow for the Three Lions.
Rooney, and the FA, can have no complaints about the punishment after the Manchester United striker kicked out at Montenegro's Miodrag Dzudovic in Friday's 2-2 draw in qualifying to earn a straight red card. It was the latest in a series of petulant and immature acts Rooney has committed over the years. That he walked off the pitch calmly, without protesting, made no difference. Nor should it have.
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Someone as high profile as Rooney, making his living in a country with a ferocious tabloid press, is always bound to generate headlines. But he has no one to blame but himself.
Let's rewind, shall we? Last February in the Premier League, Rooney was fortunate to get away with an elbow aimed in the direction of Wigan's James McCarthy. The referee blew the call, and Rooney got off without so much as a warning.
From that point onward, he seemed to be a reformed character, containing his aggression and largely ignoring defenders who targeted him. And he does receive a lot of abuse. An extra layer of hair added in the summer, some would say in jest, made him more sensible. England should expect more from someone who is 25 years old and in his prime.
Yet Friday proved that Rooney can't be trusted entirely to keep his emotions in check. In a scenario witnessed before, when Rooney becomes isolated and suddenly isn't allowed to make an impact in a game, he can lose it. The frustration gets the better of him.
England, which hasn't done much at a World Cup or European Championship since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, should have known this was going to happen. When there's a big tournament, Rooney always take center stage. For good or bad. He sizzled at Euro 2004 before injuring a metatarsal against host Portugal in the quarterfinals; another metatarsal injury in the buildup to the World Cup in 2006 meant Rooney was a non-factor in Germany, and he was sent off -- deservedly so -- for stamping on Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho.
Who knows what would have happened had England qualified for Euro 2008? Maybe its omission spared Rooney further embarrassment.
Two years later in South Africa, Rooney was one of the tourney's most disappointing players, and England exited in humiliating fashion to archrival Germany. Off-the-pitch turmoil in Rooney's personal life would soon come to light, and he would find himself in a protracted contract dispute with Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United that would eventually be resolved.
In case you're wondering, yes, the FA can appeal UEFA's decision, and that might lead to the suspension being shortened. That's the best-case possibility. However, it could also lead to the ban being extended, if UEFA deems the appeal to be, essentially, a waste of its time. And really, is there any defense of what Rooney did? It was stupid, to be kind.
England manager Fabio Capello, who didn't defend Rooney after the game Friday, now has a dilemma: He has to decide whether to take Rooney to Poland and Ukraine at all. Most would probably agree that he would be silly not to. Get through the group stage, the thinking goes, then reinsert him into the lineup.
The only problem with that is, if England, for instance, lands in the so-called group of death -- and the field at the European Championship is always stronger than at the World Cup -- can Capello afford to waste a roster spot? The Italian, though, at least has time to plan and tinker.
Imagine if Rooney was suspended during the tournament. England faces two Euro 2012 entrants, Spain and Sweden, in friendlies next month, so Capello can put his planning into action and mix and match the likes of Darren Bent, Andy Carroll, Bobby Zamora and Danny Welbeck. They have different qualities, though none is a Rooney.
Indeed, not many can torment and delight like him.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.