Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe has voiced his belief that he should have been named in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for next month’s FIFA World Cup. However, the reasons for his omission easily outweighs the argument for him to be included.
The 31-year-old forward could yet find himself playing in Brazil as he is on the standby list in England’s 30-man squad. Nevertheless, Defoe firmly feels that he deserves a place within the 23. As per Sky Sports, Defoe declared himself “baffled” at his absence from the squad and voiced concerns that he may never come to terms with the decision.
In some respects, the former Spurs man does have a case. He had been involved with most England squads in the previous two years and has been a mainstay of the national setup for several years. However, that isn’t enough to merit his seat on the plane to Brazil.
If Ashley Cole, who earned 107 caps during his international career, can be left out in favour of 18-year-old Luke Shaw, then Defoe can’t use previous inclusions as a reason to be named in Hodgson’s 23.
Besides that, Defoe only scored two competitive goals on the road to Brazil—one against each of San Marino and Moldova. That hardly signals a player that would spark fear amongst the world’s best defenders.
Another reason for Defoe’s omission is the move to Toronto. Last week, the forward told BBC Sport that playing in the MLS was not to blame for his England snub.
Defoe has performed well in the MLS, spearheading Toronto’s attack with four goals in just five games—the latest being Saturday’s rasping shot against New York Red Bulls.
Those performances have ensured that Defoe remains on Hodgson’s radar, vindicating the standby selection. However, as David Woods of the Daily Star explains, “Defoe and his advisers must have realised flying off to Canada four months before the World Cup was a massive risk.” The fact he also missed the whole of April through injury will have also gone against him as the England boss finalised his final plans.
The fact is Defoe scored just one Premier League goal in 14 appearances prior to the MLS switch and that alone will have had the alarm bells ringing, had he been included. Supporters of the former Spurs striker will point to only three league starts as an excuse, but Defoe would have only been deployed as a substitute anyway and that lack of impact off the bench is another reason against taking the Toronto man.
More importantly, though, is the England formation. Hodgson is widely expected to opt for the 4-2-3-1 tactics in Brazil and it is hard to see where Defoe could fit in within that team. The striker operates more effectively in a partnership and would struggle to lead the line by himself, even with the support of key man Wayne Rooney.
It all comes down to choices and Hodgson is definitely right to go with Daniel Sturridge. The Liverpool man has been in exceptional form this term, registering 21 Premier League strikes while also showing promise during the early stages of his international career. The 24-year-old could potentially be a focal point of the national setup for the next decade and, at a time where Hodgson has one eye on the future, he is miles ahead of Defoe in the pecking order.
The same could be said for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, who has much more life left in his international career than the ageing Defoe. As for club teammate Rooney, even a two-game suspension couldn’t keep him out of the Euro 2012 squad, and his inclusion for Brazil was always guaranteed.
Then there’s Rickie Lambert. The Saints man may only have four caps to his name, but that didn’t prevent him from playing a crucial role in England’s route to the finals. Having burst on to the international scene with a debut goal against Scotland, with his first touch no less, the Southampton striker led a depleted England attack superbly in Kiev as the Three Lions claimed a pivotal point. He also scored against Moldova.
Lambert offers England an alternative outlet that Defoe simply doesn’t and, despite being 32 years old, easily warrants his place on the plane. The Saints striker has also hit 28 Premier League goals over the past two seasons and would additionally provide a reliable penalty source, should that outcome arise.
Defoe may boast 55 caps and 19 goals for his country, but he has never really played a pivotal role in any England setup. His failure to ever command a regular starting role suggests that Hodgson is more than vindicated in his squad selection.
In fact, you could argue that Andy Carroll, England’s other standby striker, would be the better option should one of the current four be ruled out during tournament preparations. The West Ham man ended the season in superb form and would certainly have a better chance of troubling opposing defenders.
As Hodgson himself concedes, there are many difficult decisions to be made when naming a World Cup squad—dropping Defoe to the standby list was not one of them.
Statistics from Soccerway and WhoScored.com