Monday, September 04, 2006

International round-up: Relief for Defoe

With the news that Owen was injured and Rooney suspended, it was always obvious to Jermain Defoe that he'd have to add to his solitary England goal during the August and September international matches. It was universally agreed how desperately unfair it was to not be included in England's World Cup squad, and although he started against Greece last month in McClaren's first game in charge, he was again unlucky not to score. Failure to score against the part-timers from Andorra on Saturday would have put additional pressure on him at a time when he has a big enough battle fighting for a place in the Spurs eleven.

It was therefore music to the ears of any Tottenham fan that JD scored his second and third goals for England - nearly two years since his last one. Getting on the end of Gerrard's cross, he scored England's third goal towards the end of the first half. And then, just two minutes after the break, he showed his sublime touch to make it 4-0. If it wasn't for some inspired goalkeeping he could have had a hattrick before being replaced by Andy Johnson after 72 minutes.

Aaron Lennon was given his customary 25 minutes, and as expected he created havoc, including crossing for Peter Crouch to score England's final goal. I can't see how McClaren will make any significant changes to his preferred team in the near future that would mean Lennon starting. He'll therefore need to keep biding his time and taking any chances he gets. Many players struggle when coming on as a substitute - presumably because they aren't used to the rhythm of a game - but Lennon has always looked impressive for England, and all five caps have been won as a sub.

At the other end of the pitch Robbo probably had the quietest match he'll ever have in his professional career - Andorra failed to have a single shot or corner all match. As for the final Spurs involvement in Saturday's England game, Michael Dawson was an unused substitute. I'm sure he will be a little disappointed that he didn't get a chance to make his debut, especially as Ferdinand was ruled out, but if he keeps improving like he has in the last 12 months, his chance will come soon enough.

And it would only be fair when wrapping up a review of the weekend's international matches to mention a few of our other stars. Berbatov played in Bulgaria's 2-2 draw away in Romania, although was substituted before Bulgaria scored two late goals. Robbie Keane captained Ireland against the Germans, but was unfortunately involved in the only goal of the game when Lukas Podolski's free-kick deflected off him. Elsewhere, Tainio and Young-Pyo both represented their countries too.

From a selfish perspective I'm not particularly bothered about the results of international matches involving Spurs players (other than England of course). What is important is that we have a large number of players who are regularly selected to represent their country (or at least join up with the international squad). As long as they don't get injured, and they play reasonably well when given a chance, then I'm happy. And I hope playing for Spurs helps a player with his international chances - Daws' call-up this season is already proof of that.

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