In soccer-mad England, some fans and media cannot resist placing a designated player on a pedestal so they can try to knock him off.
As former teen wunderkind Wayne Rooney, who succeeded David Beckham atop the perch, pushes 30, he carries the dual reputation of a top-flight performer who has yet to fulfill his vast potential.
Rooney has rarely disappointed with his club teams. National squad events, primarily the World Cup, have been another story, which complicates the impression of him.
In Brazil, Rooney assisted on England's goal during last week's loss to Italy but was largely inconspicuous from the left wing. If media speculation is on target, he will return to a more familiar role in the center Thursday against Uruguay.
Rooney took to Facebook to ridicule reports of a possible demotion after he was seen practicing with reserves. He explained it as needing the extra work.
The British are counting on Rooney and crew to exploit a soft back line further weakened by the absence of fullback Maxi Pereira for a red-card infraction in Uruguay's collapse against Costa Rica. Yet, their attack gets a boost from the return of Luis Suarez, the Premier League's leading scorer whose knee injury last month has finally mended.
Bookending the game are encounters from Group C: Colombia versus Ivory Coast, both winners in their openers, and Japan versus Greece, both in need of a victory.
The most intriguing subplot is whether the Ivorians fold Didier Drogba into the lineup. The venerable Drogba, 36, came on in the second half against Japan and helped flip a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 lead that stood up.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times