Once every four years the worlds best convene for a festival of footballing excellence as they do battle for the most coveted trophy in world sport; the Jules Rimet trophy. The opportunity to represent your country is an honour in itself, but to do so at a World Cup is for a footballer like nothing else.
The race to book a place on the plane to Brazil is fierce and those involved will do anything in their power to be fit and firing going into the final days of selection. A heavy onus on playing week in week out for their respective clubs is of paramount importance for those in the shakeup.
Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe is precisely one of those stars whose place in Brazil is under threat, an England regular in seasons past, will his limited role in the Premier League prompt a move away?
The acquisition of then record signing Roberto Soldado has seen Defoe fall down the pecking order at White Hart Lane. Having to make do with the Europa League and Capital One Cup as a source of first team football, the Englishman has failed as yet to be involved that readily in the league. His form in the cup competitions has been as potent as ever, breaking Martin Chivers’ long-standing European goal scoring record in the process. Yet as ever it is difficult to guarantee a place within Hodgson’s squad without making an impact in the Premier League, at the moment that just doesn’t look like happening for Defoe. More concerning still is the clutch of Englishman competing for Defoe’s place that are getting consistent league action, the likes of Lambert, Sturridge and Welbeck are placing themselves well ahead of the diminutive Defoe in the pecking order.
So what can Defoe do to reverse this worrying trend?
Five goals in four Europa appearances and you imagine there is a school of thought that suggests getting him into the ailing Premier League forward line. Personally I just don’t see this ever happening.
AVB is a stubborn manager; he wants to play certain variant of a 4-2-3-1 and will ensure that he finds the solution to making it work. Scoring against second-rate European teams will not do anything more than to remind AVB what Defoe is capable of, few contest that the Englishman is a fine finisher and goal poacher. The reality at Spurs is that they want a little more than that from their Premier League frontman, whether they are getting that from Soldado is another question.
That aside, even from Defoe’s short Premier League cameos you can already tell that the guy just isn’t cut out for the way AVB wants to play. This isn’t a question of form, but more of an incompatibility between the way AVB wants to set up and the way Defoe plays.
Defoe’s love for the club and fans is admirable, and it is clear that he has a special relationship with the White Hart Lane faithful. He spoke just this week about his clear ambitions to make it work at Spurs:
“Of course it is frustrating that for all the goals, I have not had much of a chance in the Premier League,” the 31-year-old told the Daily Express.
“Fans ask me all the time, but I don’t need to tell anybody I am frustrated. That is just normal. People know I love my football, and I love scoring goals. When I am not getting the opportunity to do that, it is frustrating.”
“But I have never once said I wanted to leave this football club.”
I think many have a lot of time for Englishman’s attitude, but for me it is a matter of time before the need to play comes ahead of his loyalty to Spurs. Defoe’s hunger to play at the World Cup, potentially his last opportunity to play at major tournament for his country, will in my view push hi towards the exit door come January.
Again I re-iterate the fact this isn’t a question of regaining his form, Defoe just won’t be a first team regular under AVB. Too small and perhaps a too one-dimensional, AVB wants to get closer to the complete forward that can of course be clinical in the final third but at the same time bring the rest of his team into play.
The sooner Defoe realises the harsh reality probably the better. Come January expect to see the Englishman to bid his final White Hart Lane farewell.