After making a breathtaking introduction to English football with the winning goal for Everton against Arsenal in October 2002, it was widely considered that a future star had been unearthed in Wayne Rooney. The Merseyside teenager, who hit the headlines still five days short of his 17th birthday, was soon being tipped as the main successor to some of England's main men, and it only took four months for manager Sven-Goran Eriksson to give him his international bow against Australia.
On that occasion, he came off the substitutes' bench to become the youngest goalscorer for his country, and although it wasn't enough to earn him a start against Liechtenstein in the following game, a lacklustre performance from his teammates saw Rooney introduced to the starting lineup against Turkey on this day in 2003. Rooney was drafted in to partner Michael Owen in attack, with a familiar trio of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes lining up behind them in midfield.
Much of the early stages focused on the appearance of Rooney, the England team as a whole were under scrutiny after criticism from the Liechtenstein game. Beckham attempted to lead from the front amid suggestions that there wasn't enough passion within the national team ranks, but his over-exuberance came at a price when he received an early yellow card for dissent.
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Beckham continued to be heavily involved, wasting a simple chance after Rustu Recber had failed to deal with a cross from the left flank from Gerrard, and the midfielder and England were almost made to pay soon afterwards when Yildiray Basturk forced a solid save out of goalkeeper David James from long range.
As the first half progressed, Rooney became more of a factor, mixing his fearlessness and physicality with a direct approach that worried the opposition defence. Shortly before the break, the 17-year-old had the Stadium of Light crowd on the edge of their seats with a powerful run that concluded with Owen being set up in the penalty area, but Rustu did well to smother the chance on goal.
That period of play had given England the momentum at the start of the second half and they pushed forward relentlessly as they targeted a win that would take them to the top of the group at the halfway stage. A long-range strike from Scholes was well dealt with by Rustu, before the Turkish stopper was equal to a Darius Vassell chance from 10 yards and a Beckham free kick that looked to be heading for the bottom corner.
Rooney also continued to have a considerable influence on England's threat in the final third, with his movement off the ball posing a constant problem for the defence, while the pace of Vassell, who had been introduced for the injured Owen, almost brought him a goal when he shrugged off the attention of two defenders before drilling the ball towards the near post, only for Rustu to palm the ball away for a corner.
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With 15 minutes remaining in the North-East, England finally got the goal that their play deserved. Wayne Bridge whipped in a lofted cross for Rio Ferdinand, whose half-volley was struck straight at Rustu, but the ball rebounded into the path of Vassell who kept his composure to fire under the Turkish stopper from eight yards.
Turkey hadn't offered much as an attacking threat, but with nine minutes left, they almost found an unlikely equaliser through Nihat Kahveci, whose header was wonderfully kept out by the outstretched reach of James. England found themselves under pressure as the tension increased at the home ground of Sunderland, but when the game entered added-on time, England found a second through Beckham.
After Kieron Dyer had been felled by Ergun Penbe, the skipper stepped up to lash the ball to Rustu's right to give his team first place in the group, a position that they wouldn't relinquish throughout the remainder of the qualifying campaign to earn their place at Euro 2004.
England XI: James, Neville, Ferdinand, Campbell, Bridge, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Gerrard, Rooney, Owen
Subs: Mills, Robinson, Woodgate, Lampard, Dyer, Heskey, Vassell
Turkey XI: Rustu, Aykel Fatih, Alpay, Korkmaz, Ergun, Ozkan, Basturk, Tugay, Asik Emre, Nihat, Mansiz
Subs: Omer, Deniz, Ahmet, Korkut, Sas, Davala, Sukur