Wayne Rooney insists Gareth Southgate was right to rotate his squad for England’s group-stage defeat to Belgium at the World Cup ahead of Tuesday’s Round of 16 clash with Colombia.
Southgate made eight changes for the Belgium game, with the tournament’s top-scorer Harry Kane left on the bench throughout.
Belgium ran out 1-0 winners in the end and topped Group G, meaning they will face Brazil in the quarter-finals after winning their Round of 16 encounter with Japan.
England, on the other hand, finished second in the group and will meet either Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter-finals if they beat Colombia in the first knockout round, which is seen as an easier route to the final.
Speaking at a press conference following his move from Everton to DC United, Rooney revealed he believes Southgate made the correct decision.
“For me, personally, it’s the right decision,” the former England captain told ESPN.
“The result, in my opinion – I can say it now, I’m not [an England] player – the result was the best result for England, I think.
“And maybe that’s been a problem we’ve had the last 15, 20 years as a country: we’re too honest. We sit there and say we want to win every game. This is England. This is how we should play.
“When all the other countries are plotting their way through, I’m sure Gareth would have liked to have kept the momentum going, but sometimes you need to take a step backward to go forward. I believe it was definitely the right decision.”
Rooney, who made 119 appearances for the Three Lions, captained England at Euro 2016 and was part of the side that lost to Iceland in the Round of 16.
The former Manchester United striker is England’s all-time leading goalscorer with 53 goals, four more than Bobby Charlton.
Kane will be hoping to eventually break that record – the current captain has scored five times in Russia so far, taking his total England tally up to 18 goals in 26 appearances.