Time for Rooney to deliver

The build-up to the World Cup continues now the domestic campaigns are over and, as countries prepare themselves for Brazil by organising training camps and friendlies, plenty of commentators and pundits are selecting who they think will be the star players this summer.

Wayne Rooney has been singled out by many who predict the forward will be England's shining light in the tournament, but can the Manchester United man handle the pressure and live up to the hype?

Rooney has simply failed to deliver in his previous two World Cups for the Three Lions, in 2006 and 2010, as he looked short of fitness, focus and, most importantly, goals. However, many believe 2014 must be the year he proves he really is the world class player his global profile and wages appear to suggest.

Coming on the back of a difficult overall season for United - but an impressive personal one in which he was often singled out as his side's most consistent player - Rooney is gearing up for Brazil and looks in good shape. He struck 19 goals for United in the season that has just finished and, barring injury, will be in Roy Hodgson's starting line-up against Italy in the first group game on June 14.

The former Everton star is likely to be deployed in the 'No 10' role, probably just tucked behind Daniel Sturridge, and will be charged with both creating and converting chances as England initially look to progress out of a difficult first stage and onwards into the knockout phase. With the Azzurri, Uruguay and Costa Rica alongside them in Group D, it will probably not be straightforward and there is undeniably pressure on Rooney to deliver with the World Cup betting odds suggesting England will struggle to go that far in the tournament.

The 28-year-old's international career began brilliantly as he lit up Euro 2004. He briefly held the record for the youngest scorer in that competition's history and, even though he suffered an injury in the quarter-final against Portugal, his four goals in four matches saw him cement a place in UEFA's Team of the Tournament with England fans confidently pinning their hopes on him, sure that Rooney could lead them to future glory.

An injury before the 2006 World Cup restricted his preparation eight years ago and may have gone some way to explain his poor showing in Germany as he ended the competition goalless and in shame, unable to help England past Portugal in the last eight after being sent off with penalties looming. The 2010 finals in South Africa were arguably just as bad for the United ace as he and the team struggled throughout. He then hit a new low when mouthing off to a post-match camera crew - complaining that the England fans had been booing the team in the thoroughly underwhelming 0-0 group draw against minnows Algeria.

But much of that has now been forgotten as, once again, fans get excited about what might be in Brazil. Rooney has sometimes single-handedly led United to victories and regularly delivers in the big games for his club.

Now, surely, it is time he stepped up for his country.