Rooney, Torres and Messi – can they deliver?

They are probably the three best players in the world right now; Wayne Rooney is in explosive form, Lionel Messi appears unstoppable with the ball at his feet, and an injury-ravaged season hasn’t prevented Fernando Torres from scoring goals when fit. It will be a privilege to see all three in action during the World Cup. The question is: can they deliver?

Let’s start with Messi. It seems the burden of carrying Argentina through the qualifiers backed by a longer cast of supporting actors than appeared in the credits of A Bridge Too Far and under the direction of an erratic coach who didn’t know where to play him has now been lifted from his shoulders.

Recent club performances have been startling, to say the least. Messi could drag Argentina to the final if he plays to his full potential and his team mates raise their game.

By contrast, despite regularly scoring at club level, including a trademark centre forward’s header last weekend, Torres looks out of sorts and is all too easily irritated by robust defenders.

He may be hoping World Cup referees give him more protection. His mood can’t have been helped by constant interruptions to his season and periodic returns to a stuttering Liverpool who may not even qualify for the Champions League.

That said, look at the talent around him at Spain and you know why the smart money is still on them to win in South Africa. The Spanish may not need a free-scoring Torres; they will almost certainly pick up the World Cup if he is fit and banging goals in.

And then there is Rooney. Excelling at club level, some say he is driving Man Utd’s search for a fourth successive Premiership title virtually unaided.

England fans have waited a long time for a fully fit and mature Rooney to play his part in a major tournament.

A threat in the air and on the ground, Rooney will be a handful for any World Cup defence – so long as recent rumours of a knee injury prove unfounded.

Can they all deliver? Let’s hope so. With Rooney, Torres and Messi firing in goals we could be looking at one of the most eye-catching World Cup finals tournaments in a long time.

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