Belfast Telegraph

Defoe looks set to start for England

By Ian Herbert

Jermain Defoe's World Cup moment seems to have arrived at last.

He was bitterly disappointed to miss out in 2006 and spent the summer in philosophical mood with his great friend Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose role on the margins at Chelsea saw him miss the cut, too.

The individual he might have to thank for the prospect of a start – if he gets one today – is the Slovenian manager, Matjaz Kek.

It was Kek who pointed out at Wembley nine months ago the considerable part the Tottenham striker had played in a 2-1 win against his Slovenian side, with the goal he scored when arriving in place of Emile Heskey after half-time just part of the story. "[Fabio] Capello should think seriously... about picking Defoe," Kek said in September.

But Capello remained unconvinced. "What more does Defoe have to do to persuade you to pick him from the start?" he was asked outside the England dressing room that afternoon. To which Capello replied: "Perhaps he would be tired if he played from the first minute. Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

"But Heskey is poor and you still play him," Capello's questioner continued. "Heskey, for me, played a good first half," he replied. And so the conversation continued before Capello wrapped it up. "If he [Defoe] plays the second half, he has scored goals. That's good.''

Now, as England seek some energy, it seems Defoe will get his chance to start. The problem is that Defoe and Rooney are still a relatively untested partnership. They have started only seven games together and only one goal has been scored by either of them in those games. On occasions, the delineation between their duties is unclear, while Heskey's presence creates a clear area for Rooney to operate within. There would be no time better than this afternoon to prove the partnership can work, though, even if Kek is the man with most belief in it.

Belfast Telegraph

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