De­foe sets sights on ‘dream’ 2018 World Cup

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LONDON: Vet­eran striker Jer­main De­foe has his sights on a “dream” place in Eng­land’s 2018 World Cup squad af­ter re­turn­ing to the fold fol­low­ing a near fouryear ab­sence, he said on Mon­day.

The 34-year-old Sun­der­land player was re­called by man­ager Gareth South­gate for to­day’s friendly against Ger­many in Dort­mund and Sun­day’s World Cup qual­i­fier at home to Lithua­nia.

Asked if he is al­ready think­ing about play­ing at the World Cup in Rus­sia, De­foe replied: “Of course, yeah. I know how im­por­tant it is to play for your coun­try.”

De­foe was a mem­ber of the Eng­land squads that went to the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 and says the ex­pe­ri­ences whet­ted his ap­petite for ma­jor tour­na­ment foot­ball.

“Just go­ing to a ma­jor tour­na­ment — trav­el­ling, get­ting to the ho­tels, play­ing the games — it’s some­thing you’ve al­ways wanted to do from be­ing a kid, grow­ing up watch­ing the great play­ers over the years,” he said.

“Play­ing in the ma­jor tour­na­ments, go­ing out and em­u­lat­ing the play­ers you’ve seen on TV. Be­ing lucky enough to have ex­pe­ri­enced it, you just want it more and more.

“I’ve been blessed to have gone to two ma­jor tour­na­ments. So if I do get an op­por­tu­nity to go to an­other ma­jor tour­na­ment, it’d be a dream.”

De­foe has scored 14 goals in the Premier League this sea­son, more than any English striker ex­cept for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s Harry Kane, who is in­jured.

De­spite his long spell in the in­ter­na­tional wilder­ness, De­foe said he never gave up hope of a re­call.

“Just never giv­ing up re­ally,” he said when asked for the se­cret be­hind his re­turn.

“Just al­ways keep­ing my head down, work­ing hard and just hav­ing that hope that I’ll get back in. I’m back here and I’m de­lighted.”

With Kane, Daniel Stur­ridge and Danny Wel­beck in­jured and Wayne Rooney not se­lected, De­foe is vy­ing for a start­ing berth with Le­ices­ter City’s Jamie Vardy and Mar­cus Rash­ford of Manch­ester United. AFP

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