Defoe could battle Bent for Euro 2012 place

 

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The Independent Online

Darren Bent returns to White Hart Lane tonight as England's No 9, his place at next year's European Championship seemingly secure, but the Aston Villa striker has been warned he may yet be dislodged from Fabio Capello's squad by the man whose form cost him his Spurs career: Jermain Defoe.

The claim, from Spurs' first-team coach, Joe Jordan, seems far-fetched given the divergence in the two players' fortunes. Defoe (below) has not played for England since March, and was omitted from Capello's squad for this month's two friendlies.

By contrast Bent, sold by Harry Redknapp to Sunderland in the summer of 2009 because Defoe's goals rendered him surplus to requirements, seems to have won the Italian's trust, featuring in both of those wins as the England manager seeks alternatives to Wayne Rooney.

That both strikers have scored six times this season seems almost coincidental: Defoe has become an impact substitute or a Europa League reservist, finding himself below Emmanuel Adebayor in Redknapp's plans, while Bent is Alex McLeish's front-line forward. Such is Defoe's talent, though, that Jordan believes it may be he who leads England's line next summer.

"Between now and then you have to prove you are a good player, so I wouldn't say that [Bent will go]," said Jordan. "Jermain can do that. He is waiting for his opportunity. There will be competition ... you have got to make a run. There will be very few players selected for their country in this tournament if their form is not good between now and then. If you drop off, you might have been the person scoring the winning goal in qualifying, but if someone else emerges, you could be left behind."

But the 27-year-old Bent's move to the Stadium of Light, and his subsequent switch to Aston Villa, were testament to his determination to prove his ability to handle pressure, to take a central role, even if it meant doing so away from the Premier League's elite.

"Darren has always been a player that scored goals, but here he was competing for a place with two or three strikers who were equally good," said Jordan. "He went to Sunderland, handled being a No 1 choice, and it elevated him back into a position for the national team. The consistency and continuity of getting games was important. Maybe he does need to be the main man."

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