Wayne Rooney says England’s young guns “won’t get judged” on what happens at Euro 2016, but has backed his side to “go far” in France.
Only a point is required from Monday’s encounter against Slovakia to ensure qualification for the last-16 after Roy Hodgson’s side secured a memorable 2-1 comeback win against neighbours Wales to go top of Group B.
England were held to a 1-1 draw in their opening match against Russia in Marseille, where the line-up’s average age of 25 years and 293 days made it England’s second-youngest ever at a major finals.
And captain Rooney says he is excited by the group’s potential and, while their best is yet to come, the skipper is confident this summer’s championships can be memorable.
“As I’ve said before, we’ve got a very good, exciting squad and I think time will tell,” said Rooney.
“I think we’re not going to get judged on what happens in this tournament – I think the players have got a lot of years ahead of them and this tournament will help.
“But we’re not here as a group of players for the experience, we’re here to try and do well and go far.
“But I certainly think over the next few years this squad can grow into a better team, a more mature team.
“But at the minute, we’re trying to do as well as we can and we feel we’ve had a good start.
“We hope we can continue that and go into the later stages of the tournament.”
England certainly look to have a solid foundation on which to build, with the defence performing better than many expected and a talented midfield shored up by Rooney’s presence.
The 30-year-old’s first two appearances for his country in central midfield have been a success, and partly down to England’s impressive attacking strength in depth.
“They’re great to have in the squad,” Rooney said of England’s attacking options. “Everyone has seen the quality of players which we mentioned before the tournament.”