Jol backs Defoe's quest to secure World Cup place

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The Tottenham manager, Martin Jol, has reassured Jermain Defoe he will be given enough chances to seal his place in England's World Cup squad before the end of the season.

However, he acknowledged that the striker knows he must "play for his life" - and his place for club and country - whenever he is given a run in the side.

Defoe has started just one of Tottenham's past eight matches, with Robbie Keane paired with Mido at club level on a regular basis.

At international level, he has not started since the 4-1 defeat in Denmark in August, with Peter Crouch having overtaken him in the England rankings. Indeed, Darren Bent's fine form for Charlton has even put pressure on Defoe's chances of being named as one of the four strikers in the World Cup squad.

Jol nevertheless insisted: "There is no problem with Jermain not starting games. He will get his matches. If he is just 80 per cent and not doing well, then we have a problem.

"But the last couple of times when he came on, he was really on fire. He is probably the only player we have who can really do something out of nothing.

"I don't think it makes it difficult for the England manager to pick Defoe if he is not starting games for us. He will still go to Germany."

Defoe missed just one of Tottenham's first 13 games of this season but failed to match his normal high standards in scoring just three times.

With Jol reluctant to play two smaller strikers together, Keane duly replaced him in the side against West Ham on 20 November and kept his place thereafter with four goals in six games.

Indeed, it was 28 December, when Jol was looking to freshen up his side amid the frenetic Christmas schedule, when Defoe next started for Spurs. The England striker was not on target in that game against West Bromwich Albion but had previously scored as a substitute against both Portsmouth and Birmingham to hint at a return to form. He was still back on the bench against Newcastle on New Year's Eve and may stay there for today's trip to Manchester City.

Jol revealed: "Sometimes I need to put my arm around Jermain. Other times, he knows when he comes on he must play for his life, for the England team, for his club and he must score goals. So sometimes it is better to leave him alone. It's much more different with Robbie if he is not playing!

"But Jermain will be fine. The England manager has already said that he's so dangerous when he comes on that he will be of use to the England team. Jermain is not a sub. Robbie is fit but if he is not playing or injured, then Jermain will play."

Defoe has talent in abundance, is still just 23 and has already won 15 caps, scoring his only England goal against Poland in a World Cup qualifier in September 2004.

He retains the pace Eriksson likes to use from the bench, while Michael Owen's fractured metatarsal bone could offer a chance in England's next friendly in March. That is, however, only if he is playing - and scoring - regularly again for Tottenham and much may depend on Keane's form and fitness.

The Irish international was an influential figure as stand-in captain against Newcastle and he paid tribute to his team-mates for responding so positively to their defeat at West Bromwich Albion. "We haven't been playing well recently but, against Newcastle, we showed how well we can perform," Keane told the club's website.

"The most important thing when you haven't played well is the next game and we have turned it around. We showed good character, team spirit and it was a convincing win."

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