Rooney must cut short fuse
World Cup 2010: Rustenburg
High above Nelson Mandela Drive - the long road that stretches into and out of Rustenburg - the face of Wayne Rooney looks down from a giant hoarding accompanied by the slogan: "Once In A Lifetime."
Rooney is one of the symbols of the World Cup, earmarked even before the opening ceremony as a unique talent capable of making an indelible mark on the tournament.
If stars of Rooney's stature are important to the overall image of this South African showpiece, then this is nothing compared to how integral he is to England's chances of success.
And that is why Rooney's behaviour in England's unconvincing win against local side Platinum Stars will surely draw a short but sharp rebuke from Fabio Capello ahead of Saturday's opening game against the United States.
And those darker forces lurking within Bob Bradley's side will have noted with interest how England's talisman threatened to overheat completely in what amounted to little more than a practice match.
Rooney demonstrated his class by enlivening a poor England performance after emerging as a substitute for the second half, setting up a goal for Joe Cole and scoring himself after Jermain Defoe had made the early breakthrough.
But he senselessly became involved in heated exchanged with Platinum Stars' Kagiso Senamela and was unsettled to such an extent that he was eventually booked for dissent by local referee Jeff Selogilwe.
Selogilwe was justified in brandishing the yellow card, irrespective of the lowly status of the game, and it will serve as a timely reminder to Rooney that World Cup officials may not be so patient or lenient.
To say that Selogilwe was unimpressed by Rooney was an understatement - he may not be so lucky if he loses his cool again so obviously in the World Cup.
If he can blow up, however briefly, in a game of such minor significance, what might he be tempted to do when the World Cup is at stake?
In Rooney's defence he has curbed many of his former excesses and matured greatly in recent times, but he showed signs of his short fuse in the friendly win against Japan and it was on display here again.
Capello will regard it as a bonus that it happened in a game that was almost a public training exercise, played out in front of thousands of excited local schoolchildren after a road journey that took England's players from their Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus base past the vast expanse of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and the temptations of Sun City.
The neat oval of the Moruleng Stadium was nowhere near full, but those inside gave vent to the full African football experience. The groans of the vuvuzelas will be a deafening feature of this tournament and the enthusiasm of the fans was wonderfully infectious.
Capello can now take this opportunity to give Rooney one last lecture about his responsibilities before the competition gets under way. The message is simple - England simply cannot afford to be without him, as he showed in flashes here.
In his absence, England can look worryingly witless, a flaw that makes it even more vital that he avoids the sort of needless conflict he became embroiled in.
Capello takes England's squad on safari on Tuesday as they concentrate on one type of big game before tackling another on Saturday. He cut an agitated figure as he stalked the technical area in an England tracksuit, so infuriated by his team's first-half failings that he received a stern rebuke from a female fourth official.
And he spent much of the interval issuing fierce instructions to his replacements as, Joe Cole apart, 10 changes were made. Capello still has choices to make, so his selection was being studied closely for clues as to who will face the United States.
With David James still struggling with a knee injury, Capello gave Joe Hart first chance against the Platinum Stars. He was able to watch Bradley Grobler's penalty sail yards over his head, but earned black marks from Capello for poor distribution and may have conceded ground to Robert Green.
Capello's likely first-choice back four was in place in the shape of Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ledley King and Ashley Cole, while Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard will almost certainly be flanked by Aaron Lennon and Joe Cole in midfield with Gareth Barry ruled out.
So to the attacking options - and apart from Rooney, no-one presented Capello with a compelling case for inclusion. The decision to start with Defoe and Peter Crouch up front appeared to point in the direction of Emile Heskey getting the nod for the opener.
Rooney is booked for dissent against Platinum Stars
Crouch had a poor 45 minutes, and while the pairing of Heskey and Rooney pepped England up, Aston Villa's striker demonstrated exactly why his inclusion in the squad is regarded with scepticism by so many.
He headed a simple chance wide before we saw a painful illustration of his lack of confidence. Rooney ignored a clear scoring opportunity to offer a "have this one on me" pass to Heskey, who not only declined to accept but then compounded his error by delivering a hospital pass to Lennon that ensured the opportunity was gone.
Heskey invariably holds the ball up well and bustles about, but this is hardly a special talent and it says little for his rivals that he seems destined to be England's battering ram again in South Africa. Almost by default, it appears he will once again play the role of Rooney's straight man for England.
It is worth remembering at this juncture that World Cups are not won and lost in games like these, although Capello's faces of fury and animated anger made it clear he expected more. He draws on experience to provide assurance that things can be so much different when the real combat begins.
England have hardly had the nation jumping with optimism with recent performances, but all Capello's plans have been building towards Saturday.
If Rooney's outburst will draw justified criticism, there should be credit to the Football Association and England's players for the way they handled themselves off the pitch here.
England's team displayed a banner to supporters before the game in the local language, Setswana, that read "Happy To Be Here With You" and the squad thrilled youngsters by staying behind long after the final whistle to sign autographs, with Rooney and David Beckham the main targets for their adulation.
The public relations were perfect. The performance less so.
Capello must now use these crucial days before the campaign to stress to his star player that a repeat of his antics against Platinum Stars is running a huge risk with England's World Cup aspirations.