Roy Hodgson has begun the next stage of his World Cup preparations by issuing a public challenge to Wayne Rooney to start reproducing his club form for England and make sure he lives up to his reputation in a way that has been beyond him in previous international tournaments. It was time, the England manager said, that Rooney "exploded" on the world stage.
Hodgson's message to Rooney was clear and included an admission that the Manchester United striker had generally underachieved in major competitions since his remarkable contribution at Euro 2004, as an 18-year-old.
Rooney was sent off as England went out of the World Cup in 2006 to Portugal and was barely recognisable with his wretchedperformances in South Africa four years later. His suspension for kicking out at a Montenegro player in the Euro 2012 qualifiers meant he missed the first two games before another disappointing performance in the game against Italy that put Hodgson's men out of the competition.
"Maybe once or twice in the past I think I can say without fear of contradiction that on the world stage he hasn't exploded as he has on our national stage, where we all accept him as an outstanding player," Hodgson said. "We have been together for a couple of years, we are growing slowly and there will be an opportunity for him in Brazil to show he is not just a great star in the Premier League, but a world star.
"I hope with Wayne, and certainly the message to him is: 'This is your chance. Sure, you'll be a bit tired, but so will Luis Suárez and David Luiz and various other players, because they are also playing in the Premier League and playing every game, like you.'
"He is 28, a terrific age, and this is the world stage, the perfect opportunity for him to prove to people around the world what we already know – that he is a very, very gifted footballer, a very all-round footballer capable of playing in many positions and someone who is a leading light in his team, which is one of the best in the world. It would be nice to see him reproducing that form for England and I am confident he will."
One concern for Hodgson is that Rooney is so important for United these days there will not be many opportunities for the manager, David Moyes, to rest him between now and the end of the season.
"They will be tired, they will be exhausted," Hodgson said. "But going through the players the other day, the fact there are 23 Frenchmen playing regularly in the league, 15 Belgians and 14 Spaniards etc, means we're not going to be quite as alone on that front as we once were.
"These players will be equally tired. Luis Suárez is not going to be any fresher than Wayne Rooney.
"Wayne has had an enforced break through injury. You could argue he's had a winter break, which some players didn't get. And I think with Wayne it's a great opportunity this year to show on a world stage what a magnificent player he is."
Hodgson cited Rooney's performances for United and reflected on one moment during the 2-2 draw against Fulham on Sunday. "One thing I was disappointed about was that he didn't get credit for the fact the equalising goal came from Rooney winning a header against Dan Burn in the box. Rooney against 6ft 7in Dan Burn. That says a lot about what he's doing at the moment. He didn't get a lot of credit for that but he got credit in my eyes, that's for sure. I certainly rejoice in the fact that he's playing so well."
Hodgson is also encouraged by the return to form of the Manchester City goalkeeper, Joe Hart. He said: "Hart has had a good response. It must have been hard to lose his place [at City] and there was a lot of criticism at the time. I don't care how confident a character you are, you are bound to be affected. But since Joe got his chance again he has grabbed it with both hands and turned in good performances. I never doubted his ability to do it."
Hodgson was asked about Adnan Januzaj's possible involvement in future years and the growing sense that the 18-year-old United player, born in Brussels to Albanian-Kosovar parents, would eventually like to qualify for England through citizenship.
"All I can say on the subject is that it is a matter for the FA board," Hodgson said. "It does raise a lot of issues within football. Until the FA board have made it clear what their policy is, whether it's going to be following Fifa dictates or something slightly different, I've got to wait and see.
"The one thing you have to understand with Januzaj, whichever way England decide to go, is the way the rules are at the moment there is no way he can play for England for the next few years."
Hodgson has been backed by the FA's general secretary, Alex Horne, to continue after the World Cup regardless of the team's performance. "For me personally, Roy is our manager to France [Euro 2016] and I'm happy with that, very happy with that," Horne told the Times. "I think he's been brilliant. He's exactly what we hoped for."
Hodgson has a contract to the summer of 2016 and Horne said there was no minimum World Cup requirement. "Pass mark? For me, personally, he's done it by getting through that group," he said of the qualification campaign. "We go with confidence. We'll prepare well. We go optimistic that we are going to enjoy it and play well. It's not an easy group, it's not an easy tournament."