THE United States' defenders do not plan to specifically "wind up" Wayne Rooney in their World Cup opener on Saturday, but they do plan on giving the England superstar a frustrating day.
Rooney was booked for dissent and delivered several challenging exchanges in a 3-0 victory over South African club Platinum Stars in Rustenburg on Monday.
The Manchester United striker was famously sent off in England's 2006 World Cup quarterfinal loss to Portugal and a similar eruption against the Americans on Saturday in Rustenburg could spell trouble for England's World Cup hopes.
"A person with as much fire as he has, if you can make it difficult for him, that's an effective thing for us," US defender Jay DeMerit said yesterday.
"It's not our job to kick him when no one is looking or try to wind him up."
DeMerit, who plays in England for Watford, has put in his time guarding Rooney and knows the playmaker can make days difficult for defenders as well.
"We're under no illusions. We're going to have to be at our best in order to beat him," he said.
"He's one of the best players in the world and getting that tag does not come easily. (But) even the best guys can have a bad day."
US midfielder Stuart Holden, who plays for Bolton in England, sees less chance Rooney will erupt compared to 2006, even as England fans hold their breath.
"He's now a more experienced player in his temperament and how to handle himself. I don't think England have anything to worry about," Holden said.
l Meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand has absolved Emile Heskey of any blame over the training-ground collision that ended his dream of captaining England in the World Cup.
"It was a complete freak, an accident," Ferdinand said. "It's no fault of his (Heskey's) at all. It's just a freak accident that could happen at any time." - Sapa-AFP