Eriksson hints at Defoe start for World Cup game

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The Independent Online

Sven Goran-Eriksson has given the strongest hint yet that Jermain Defoe will start England's friendly against Denmark next week to give the Tottenham Hotspur striker the chance to earn a starting place for the World Cup qualifier against Wales on 3 September.

With Michael Owen suspended for the match in Cardiff, and Peter Crouch currently injured, the England manager said yesterday that Defoe would almost certainly start in Copenhagen, on Wednesday, as preparation for the Wales game. Owen will still be in the England squad for the friendly but is not likely to start alongside Wayne Rooney.

Eriksson, who was giving a football management class to teachers and coaches sponsored by Pepsi, said: "I will pick Michael Owen but almost for sure I will not start with him. That brings in Defoe, which is rather interesting. It's a good opportunity for him to show that he is the right man for Wales. I want to see Michael Owen again. He can't play against Wales but he can play against Northern Ireland [on 7 September].

"He [Jermain] is improving a lot, I saw him play for Tottenham against Porto and he played very well. He scored a fantastic goal. He's a threat and strikers normally judge themselves on how many goals they score.

"He is young and he can still improve. You can see he is a goalscorer. He is quick and he has marvellous technique. He needs to be a little bit more involved in games. Sometimes he is just waiting for the chance to score but he knows my opinion, I have told him that. He is young and we should be happy to have these kind of players. You can't expect him to be perfect."

Eriksson said that he would also look closely at Crouch this season who would almost certainly be starting were it not for the injury that the new Liverpool striker picked up in pre-season. The 24-year-old now looks to have an extremely strong case for a place in the World Cup squad after Eriksson said that he gave him different options to those offered by Owen, Rooney and Defoe.

The England coach maintained his belief that even if Owen did not play all the time for Real Madrid, the striker was still at the forefront of his mind for the World Cup squad.

Although he had not spoken personally to Owen about his position at Real, Eriksson said that he would be ready to offer the player advice, if requested, when the squad meet up on Monday.

Eriksson also added that he had not made Crystal Palace chairman, Simon Jordan, any guarantees over Andy Johnson's England future other than to say that he would not be disregarded simply because he was playing in the Championship. "He asked me 'If Andy Johnson stays is he completely out?' and my simple answer was that that would not be the case," Eriksson said.

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