With the World Cup around the corner, Fabio Capello does not have much time to finalise his squad with many key positions still up for grabs. Whilst David James, Robert Green and Ben Foster tussle over the position between the posts, a more exciting battle rages further up field as Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe both seek to stake their claim for a place alongside Wayne Rooney upfront.
In 2006 despite Bent notching 18 goals for Charlton and Defoe appearing regularly for England in qualifying and friendlies both missed out on the World Cup as Sven-Göran Eriksson opted to take the then untested Theo Walcott in their place.
But it seems this time neither are leaving any doubt over their place on the plane to South Africa. Defoe has already grabbed 7 goals this season, whilst Bent has looked revived under Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light having bagged 8. So on Saturday when Tottenham face Sunderland and the two hit men face off, Fabio Capello will be there watching with keen interest. It is thought that Capello will already go with Defoe for the friendly against Brazil on November 14th in Qatar but it has not stopped him from having a look at both with the World Cup in mind.
Despite having scored fewer goals, Defoe would appear to have the upper hand on his former Spurs team mate in that he has already impressed when called upon by England. Having scored in England’s 6-0 win over Andorra in June, Defoe came off the bench to save England with a second half brace against Holland in a 2-2 draw in August and then scored the winner in a 2-1 victory over Slovenia in September whereas Darren Bent did himself no favours missing England’s last game at Wembley, when every player was invited to celebrate England reaching South Africa, in favour of preparing for the visit of Liverpool 3 days later. Add to this the fact that Bent has not added to his four England caps since Nov 19th last year and is yet to score for the national team and the picture is quite a bleak one for Bent.
Although Bent and Defoe will be his primary concern on Saturday, Capello will have an eye on other players as withdrawals through injury threaten to hamper his preparations for the friendly in Qatar. With Steven Gerrard’s groin ruling him out, there could be a place for either Jermaine Jenas or a surprise call up for Tom Huddlestone whilst Rio Ferdinand’s injury woes could open a door for Ledley King.