Jack Wilshere believes Wayne Rooney remains England’s best player and praised the captain for helping the midfield produce an “almost faultless” display in their Euro 2016 opener.
Saturday’s Group B clash against Russia ended in frustration as Eric Dier’s thunderous free-kick was cancelled out by a last-gasp Vasili Berezutsky header, robbing Roy Hodgson’s men of a deserved three points.
It ratchets up the pressure ahead of Thursday’s mouth-watering encounter with neighbours Wales, but there remains an air of confidence around the squad following the 1-1 draw in Marseille.
England looked defensively solid and attacked with fluidity, with the new-look midfield triumvirate of Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney impressing.
“I think the midfield were all great, almost faultless,” said Wilshere, who came on after 78 minutes.
“We moved it around – in the past England teams have been accused of panicking on the ball, not keeping the ball.
“We attacked. If we couldn’t go down one side, we came out, we kept the ball and played through midfield. I thought they did well.”
Rooney was highly praised after winning his 112th cap, playing in midfield internationally for the first time.
It is a role the 30-year-old impressed in for Manchester United towards the end of the season and one Wilshere believes he is well suited to.
“He’s fantastic,” the England midfielder said at England’s training base in Chantilly.
“I watched him towards the end of the season playing for United in that deeper role and people were saying ‘can he do it?’
“I’m sitting there thinking ‘he’s doing it and he’s the best player on the pitch’.
“He’s that type of player who understands the game, he can pick up the ball, is comfortable on the ball and you saw his range of passing as well.
“I’ve said it before, I think he’s our best player and he has been for many years.
“To have someone like that in the team (is great) because also he can still play up front, in my opinion.
“He has been dropping into midfield and getting on the ball, which is fantastic.”
Rooney’s effectiveness in that position could well see him start there against Wales.
Given Monday off by Roy Hodgson and the coaching staff, the squad will resume preparations refreshed on Tuesday as the Three Lions look to turn Saturday’s impressive display into winning football.
“I think we don’t want to get carried away too much with the frustration – we just want to concentrate on the things we did,” Wilshere said.
“We could have been two or three up at half-time on another day. If we can put a few more of those chances away, and I am sure we will as the tournament goes on, we will get a little bit more confident.”