Roy Hodgson admits Wayne Rooney did not live up to expectations at Euro 2012, but feels too much pressure was placed on the shoulders of one man.
England arrived at their Polish base camp this summer knowing that they would be without the services of their talismanic striker for the first two games of their European Championship campaign.
They were, however, aware that if they could put themselves in a position to progress out of Group D, Rooney would be back for a tie against the Ukraine and the knockout stage.
The Manchester United striker returned to the fold with a winning goal against the co-hosts, allowing England to top their group, but looked rusty following an extended spell on the sidelines and made little impact during a quarter-final clash with Italy.
England suffered yet more penalty heartache against the Azzurri and national coach Hodgson concedes that the Three Lions' leading lights struggled to shine on the biggest stage.
On Rooney, he said: "He certainly tried very hard but he didn't have his best game. I think he would admit that.
"That might be down to a number of factors but I don't think fitness was a particular one. You can put a lot of things down to fitness but there was no reason for us to doubt his fitness.
"His running stats in the training sessions and the games were actually very good.
"But I think we put a lot of expectations on him.
"When he missed the first two games through suspension, we all believed that what we needed to do then was get to the third game and Wayne would win us the championships. That maybe was too much to ask of him.
"In the knockout stage, you really are hoping the player you know who can turn the game on its head and turn the game in your favour is flying and able to do so. That wasn't the case for us and so it became more of a battling team performance.
"I believe had Pirlo played poorly against us, it might have affected the Italians' showing.
"I think in all top international teams, you're looking at one, two, possibly three individuals that everyone recognises as being exceptional, world-class talents. And when you get to the big stage, you're hoping those players perform and show they're world-class talents. Like a Maradona, who won Argentina a World Cup."
Rooney's fitness and sharpness, having been forced to sit out two games, has been questioned, but Hodgson insists the striker offered enough in training to suggest he was deserving of a starting berth.
He added: "We haven't noticed anything with his fitness levels.
"We've monitored his fitness levels and in training he has looked very fit.
"In the first game he didn't show any particular signs of lacking fitness and he played the 120 minutes against Italy.
"I think what you might be saying is you're a bit disappointed with his performance and you maybe thought he could have played better."