Wayne Rooney is our only world-class player, says former England and Ipswich midfielder Kieron Dyer

Kieron Dyer, pictured in action for England

Kieron Dyer, pictured in action for England - Credit: PA

Ex-Ipswich and England star Kieron Dyer believes Roy Hodgson should adopt a counter-attacking approach at the World Cup.

The 35-year-old – who was capped 33 times by his country – overcame an end-of-season knee injury to play at the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea, Sven-Göran Eriksson’s side knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual champions Brazil.

Now, for the first time in a long time, there is little expectation on the Three Lions’ shoulders heading into a major tournament, with Hodgson having selected a largely young and inexperienced squad.

“I’m optimistic about this squad and its potential, but I’m also a realist,” said Dyer, speaking ahead of England’s opening game against Italy on Saturday night (11pm).

“In 2002, Brazil went on to win it and that was no surprise because they had seven or eight world-class players; the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Cafu and Roberto Carlos.

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“How many world-class players have we really got? Frank (Lampard) and Steven Gerrard were both world class, but I’m not sure if they are both world-class now.

“I’d say (Wayne) Rooney is probably our only player you could put in that bracket. And you’re not going to win the World Cup with just one world-class player.”

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He continued: “For me, I think our best approach would be counter-attacking at pace.

“We’ve not got the players to dominate possession, but we do have quick and dynamic players like (Raheem) Sterling, (Ross) Barkley and (Daniel) Sturridge.

“Just look at Real Madrid and the way they beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League. They can’t have had more than 35% of possession, but they were able to pick off Bayern with their pace and power.”

Meanwhile, Dyer said he doesn’t understand the criticism that England striker Wayne Rooney has received heading into the tournament.

The Manchester United striker scored 17 goals for his club this season and was the Three Lions’ top-scorer in qualifying, but his former team mate Paul Scholes has suggested the 28-year-old is past his peak.

Rooney hasn’t shone at a major tournament since he burst onto the scene at Euro 2004, but Dyer – who also played at that tournament – insists the striker is still England’s best player.

He said: “I feel sorry for Wayne. When he’s playing for Manchester United, he’s normally playing for a side that has 60 to 70 per cent of the possession so he’s going to get 60/70/80 touches of the ball and really be able to influence a game.

“England are not a team that is going to dominate possession, especially against sides like Italy and Uruguay. If Wayne only gets 12 to 15 touches of the ball in a game then how is going to be able to influence it?

“He scored a lot of goals in qualifying and is still out best player, without doubt. I just don’t get it when I hear people saying he should be dropped.”

– See today’s EADT for Dyer’s memories of playing at the 2002 World Cup.

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