Crouch determined to seal England place

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The Independent Football

Jermain Defoe has told Peter Crouch exactly what it feels like not to get picked for the World Cup - and there is no way the Tottenham striker wants to suffer the same fate.

Defoe was a regular member of Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad prior to the 2006 tournament in Germany and was heavily tipped to make the final cut.

Instead, he was overlooked in favour of Theo Walcott, then a virtually unknown teenager with barely any senior experience behind him.

For Defoe, it was a hammer blow that took some getting over. Crouch's task is to avoid similar heartbreak.

The 28-year-old took his tally to 16 goals in 17 international starts with a double against Belarus last month and, with both Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole struggling with hamstring injuries, Crouch is almost certain to be in the squad Fabio Capello names on Sunday for the high-profile friendly against five-time world champions Brazil in Qatar on November 14.

But will Crouch miss out on South Africa next summer?

Crouch, who was speaking at a school event organised by the England team sponsors Nationwide Building Society, said: "I don't want to experience that, of course not.

"Jermain was involved in the squad and then didn't go. I know from speaking to him how difficult that was.

"I don't want to suffer that same fate. I want to be on the plane."

Crouch's patchy presence for England is odd.

Prior to the Belarus encounter, he had missed three games for the Three Lions, which immediately followed a scoring appearance against Andorra.

He was overlooked prior to that for the trip to Kazakhstan, which did not seem much reward for finding the net in a key Wembley win over Ukraine at the beginning of April.

Maybe it is his size. Everyone, including Capello, knows Crouch's strengths are not as a target man, despite his 6ft 7in frame.

Surely however, when they look up and see a white shirt so prominently, there must be a temptation among England's star names to revert to the national stereotype and merely whack the ball to the big guy.

"I always feel if I am given an opportunity I will take it," Crouch said. "I have faith in my ability and I have never let anyone down.

"People will have their opinions but I am very proud of my record for England.

"When you look at the ability within the side and the creative players in the team I always feel we will create chances and I can score.

"But we have fantastic forward players and no-one has any given right to play. The manager has options. Hopefully I will be one of them."

Even if Crouch was among Capello's favoured few, he knows he would never find out. That is just not the Italian's style.

In the aftermath of that five-goal hammering of Croatia in September which secured qualification, Capello made it perfectly clear that, as far as he was concerned, the past was just that. A new start had begun.

It is part of the philosophy which has proved so successful.

A defeat to the Ukraine apart - in a match England played most of with 10 men following the dismissal of Robert Green - the Three Lions were imperious in Group Six, finally reaching the limits of their impressive powers.

"I definitely think Mr Capello has brought something different to what we have had before," said Crouch. "Results don't lie.

"It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why we have done so well but one thing is for certain, I don't think anyone is secure.

"The way the manager is, he wouldn't let on who are his first choices to make the trip to South Africa.

"He won't let anyone know until he makes his final decision.

"With that in mind, everyone who is English will be giving their all for their clubs."

That should be good news for Tottenham, who will also benefit from Defoe's desperation not to spend his summer watching TV again.

At a time when Heskey's lack of match action at Aston Villa is causing concern, Crouch could be forgiven for experiencing the same anxieties given Robbie Keane's status at White Hart Lane makes him an automatic first-choice.

But Crouch is having none of it. Having quit Liverpool because he did not feel his abilities were being used properly, he then became engulfed in the turmoil that still exists at Portsmouth.

There were other offers than the one Harry Redknapp put before him in the summer, but Crouch is still confident he chose correctly.

"I do feel I now have the platform to get the best out of myself," he said.

"I did have options in the summer but Tottenham is a big club, moving in the right direction.

"I have played for the manager before and I know he values me.

"Tottenham can win things and get into Europe. It is a club that I want to be part of for a long time.

"I would like to score the winning goal in the World Cup final as well of course, so I am not asking for much."

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