Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United striker who has rediscovered his mojo in an England shirt, has admitted to underperforming at major tournaments since bursting on to the international scene at Euro 2004 and vowed to put things right at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
After scoring the crucial header that put England 1-0 up against Poland at Wembley and on the road to qualification, Rooney said he was "very determined" to prove his worth on the biggest stage.
"That is what I have wanted to do in all the other tournaments and it hasn't happened. But I have always been determined, I want to do well and I want to try to help England be successful," Rooney said. The striker spent the summer at the centre of endless transfer speculation, which he did little to quell, but has been in good form for club and country since.
"So no change, there will be no added pressure. I won't put any added pressure on myself but I want to try to perform and that is what we all have to believe we can do, so that's what I'll do."
Rooney, the top scorer in Group H with seven goals, struggled in Germany in 2006 after breaking a bone in his foot towards the end of the club season. After England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, he endured a miserable time in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup, railing at his team's fans as the side were booed off following a dismal draw with Algeria.
At Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson was forced to do without Rooney for the first two matches as he was banned and he was then short of match fitness when he returned.
The 27-year-old said he still had time to make his mark on the biggest international stage. "I think it's my 10th or 11th year playing for England, so the obvious goal is to try to be successful and win trophies. That would be the icing on the cake. Hopefully I still have got time on my hands when I can do that."
Hodgson, who attempted to cool expectations about England's chances in Brazil, paid tribute to Rooney's efforts in qualification. "I think he has done very well throughout, although his performances recently have been crowning glories," said the England manager.
"It's not just been a good performance and a good team performance but also a decisive performance because of his goals. I think he is very settled at the moment. He has always been a big fan of playing for England, that's never been in doubt that when he gets the chance to play for England his motivation is very high."
Hodgson, well aware of the ravages that the hectic English schedule can inflict on the bodies of his players, emphasised that it would be their form in May rather than October that would count. He picked out Rooney and the England captain, Steven Gerrard, for particular praise. He said both had been "immense" in performing under the weight of expectation.
Gerrard, who spoke of his huge relief at scoring the goal that sealed England's qualification, underlined the sense of overhype and underachievement that has characterised the World Cups he has been involved in.
"My experience going into World Cups is people talking about golden generations and of us being one of the favourites; this is going to be our year and stuff like that. But that only creates a false pressure, an unfair pressure," he said.
"It's a very tough tournament and I think this time people will be more realistic. We certainly will be. We know we're a good team but we need to improve."
The Liverpool midfielder, who spoke before the Poland game of how Hodgson had lifted the pressure around the squad, underlined his point by saying that his favourite World Cup memory was watching the tournament in Italy in 1990, when he was 10, rather than any of those in which he has appeared.
Hodgson fired the starting gun on the race to make the squad by challenging the exciting talents in the England Under-21 team, among them West Ham United's Ravel Morrison and West Bromwich Albion's Saido Berahino, to make an impression between now and May.
"It's going to be interesting in the next six months to see which of these players really mount a challenge. But I have to say also that the Welbecks, Walkers, Wilsheres, even to some extent Ross Barkley, they have proved they can do it," Hodgson said. "So they have a few of their own youngsters to get past before we even start talking about Gerrard and Rooney and Lampard, etc."
Hodgson said he would not jettison any of the older players in the squad lightly, as he searches for the best blend of youth and experience. "We've got a lot of very good young players coming through, whom we've talked about, and we've still got the good old guard ready and able to play as well. It's not going to be an easy time. That will give me lots of reason for thought."
Rooney's England disappointments
Euro 2004 After excelling on his competitive debut in a crucial qualifier against Turkey, Rooney starts all of England's four games, scoring four times. Against Switzerland, he beomes the youngest goalscorer in the history of the tournament, before demolishing Croatia almost single-handedly. Then, in the quarter-final, Portugal's preoccupation with him leaves Michael Owen the space to put England ahead before Rooney fractures a metatarsal in his right foot just before the half-hour mark. England subsequently lose on penalties.
2006 World Cup Playing for Manchester United against Chelsea at the end of April, Rooney again fractures a metatarsal in his right foot. Vowing to be fit for the World Cup, he spends time recuperating inside an oxygen tent and after preparing with the England squad returns home for a scan before arriving back in Germany to announce that "the big man is back in town". But, despite his proportions, he never looks fit and although he comes into the team for the second game, exerts little influence – until he loses patience and stamps on Ricardo Carvalho, earning himself a red card.
Euro 2008 Unable to inspire England to qualification, he gives away a crucial penalty in Russia in October 2007 and misses the decisive home defeat by Croatia a month later through injury.
2010 World Cup Rooney was as miserable as his team-mates and after England stumble to a draw with Algeria, takes exception to the criticism from supporters who had parted with much money and time to watch their team play. England are crushed by Germany in the round of 16.
Euro 2012 In England's final qualifying game against Montenegro, Rooney is sent off for kicking out at an opponent, and is suspended for the competiton's group stages. His ban is later reduced to two games and he returns to score England's winner in their crucial third match, against Ukraine, before his side are eliminated by Italy – on penalties but after being outplayed for the entirety of 120 minutes.