Rooney don't want Ronaldo in SA

LONDON: Wayne Rooney is hoping that Portugal and his former team-mateCristiano Ronaldo do not qualify for next year's World Cup. The Englandforward was sent off when the two countries met in 2006 and the fallout from that incident has not been forgotten by Rooney.

England were beaten in that quarter-final and Portugal also knocked them out at the same stage of Euro 2004. "It would be nice to see Portugal not there because [at our] last two tournaments they've knocked us out," Rooney said. Ronaldo's side are currently third in a group likely to be won by Denmark.

After Rooney stamped on Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho in the quarter-final in Germany, Ronaldo led the protests and was shoved by Rooney before the referee Hector Elizondo waved the red card in the 62nd minute. The Portugal forward then appeared to wink at his country's coaches and substitutes on the bench.

There are still implied recriminations from Rooney. "I was happy I didn't get the stick Becks got [in the 1998 sending off against Argentina] and even Phil Neville did at Euro 2000," he said. "I didn't really get any stick. Ronaldo took a lot of it and I'm pleased with that."

Prior to kick-off, Ronaldo had bumped his head into the back of Rooney's in a way that was not particularly playful. The Portugal star, who moved to Real Madrid for a world record fee of £80m in the summer, must have understood the volatile character of his then team-mate at Manchester United.

That trait appears to have diminished and Rooney has not even been cautioned in any of the eight qualifiers to date for the 2010 World Cup. "I'm just trying to play and enjoy it," he explained. His wife, Coleen, is due to give birth to their first child soon and he looks more settled nowadays.

Rooney attempts to be philosophical about the dismissal three years ago. "Of course, it's a straight red card," he said. "I've got no argument about that but I just try to forget about it now and move on. I've got a chance to put it right in the next tournament."

However, when Rooney acknowledged Ronaldo as the best footballer in the world, there was still a sarcastic barb about the virtuoso's selfishness. "It's clear for everyone," Rooney said. "He scores goals. I've watched his first few games for Madrid and he seems to have improved again. He's passing the ball a lot more as well."