|Rooney, left, congratulates Defoe but it was the Manchester United man who took most of the praise [GALLO/GETTY]
It is not often a striker scores a hat-trick but finds his goalless partner taking most of the plaudits but that was the case after Jermain Defoe's Wayne Rooney-inspired hat-trick in England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria on Friday.
Adam Johnson weighed in with the other goal as Rooney's year-long international goal drought continued but it was a night of celebration for the Manchester United forward who had a hand in all four goals, starting with a deft lofted pass in the build-up to Defoe's third-minute opener.
Rooney looked sharp and full of running in the Group G Euro 2010 qualifying win – a total contrast to the dejected, weary-looking figure he cut during the World Cup.
Manager Fabio Capello said a new, deeper role had been key to his new productive streak.
"I played Rooney in a position different than usual. He did very well. I spoke with him before the game," Capello said.
"He had to stay just in front of the two central midfielders and from this position to go forward and to be free. The quality of Rooney was really high."
France lose at home
France received notice that the road to post-World Cup redemption will be long and hard when they lost 1-0 to Belarus in Paris on Friday, while Portugal threw away two points in a frantic 4-4 draw at home to Cyprus.
Spain swatted away Liechtenstein 4-0 with an ease befitting their status as world and European champions.
Italy were almost embarrassed but were ultimately able to celebrate a 2-1 victory after coming from a goal down away to Estonia in Group C.
There were wins too for Germany, Russia and the Netherlands – who provided a heartwarming moment with the goalscoring return of Ruud van Nistelrooy – but the night's compelling story was in Paris, where it became abundantly clear that a change of coach alone will not change French fortunes.
This was a miserable night for the home side, as a much changed team from the World Cup was cheered on to the pitch but roundly booed off it.
Laurent Blanc's first competitive match since replacing Raymond Domenech after a World Cup campaign that veered between farce and fiasco offered few positives as a late goal from Sergei Kislyak consigned them to a Group D defeat.
"I want to thank the fans who came here to support us," France captain Florent Malouda told the angry crowd.
Portugal were among the other heavyweight teams to flop in South Africa and missing the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and suspended coach Carlos Queiroz they flirted with disaster against Cyprus in Guimaraes.
The home side twice fell behind before hauling themselves 4-3 ahead only to concede an equaliser to Andreas Avraam two minutes from time.
While Europe's first big night of competitive international action since the World Cup was a chance for atonement for some, it was a celebration for the three big success stories of a tournament dominated by the continent.
Spain led the way as two goals from Fernando Torres and one from World Cup hero David Villa – who moved to within one goal of equalling Raul's scoring record for the country – helped them brush past Liechtenstein in a Group I match in Vaduz.
David Silva was the other scorer in the opening match of the defence of the title Spain won in Austria and Switzerland in 2008.
The Netherlands, beaten by the Spanish in the Johannesburg final, saw off San Marino 5-0 in Group E.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a hat-trick but it was the returning Van Nistelrooy who stole Dutch hearts, scoring in injury-time after being recalled to the squad for the first time in two years.
The 34-year-old was given a standing ovation as he came on and capped his return with an injury time strike.