Soccer

Toronto FC striker Defoe still wants to play for England

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The Canadian Press
6/25/2014 4:29:37 PM
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TORONTO - While England seems destined for "massive change" in the wake of its failed World Cup campaign, Jermain Defoe says he can still contribute goals to the national cause.

"I'll never turn my back on my country," the Toronto FC striker told reporters after training Wednesday. "Like I mentioned before I still feel like I've got a lot to offer. If I didn't feel that way, I'd say there's no point because you're not doing anyone any favours if you're sort of like being selfish (and) you haven't got much to offer.

"But I still feel strong, I feel sharp. So hopefully at some point I'll get called up (again). How I feel at the minute, I'm still ready to play and score goals for my country."

The 31-year-old Defoe, who has 19 goals in 55 appearances for his country, was named to England's 30-man World Cup roster but did not make the final 23.

At the time, he said he was devastated by the snub.

England (0-2-1) finished last in Group D behind Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy, managing to score just two goals.

"Spain are out, Italy are out," Defoe said. "Some big nations are out but obviously it would have been nice to see (England) progress to the later stage of the tournament. But it wasn't meant to be. A lot of young players, they still have opportunities again to play in tournaments and I'm sure they'll do well. But this year it wasn't meant to be. It was a tough group."

England captain Steven Gerrard and vice-captain Frank Lampard have said they will take some time to ponder their international future. Veteran fullback Ashley Cole opted to retire prior to the tournament.

Veteran midfielder Michael Carrick was also left out of the England squad.

"I think it's a change," Defoe said, "because obviously there's so many young players coming through — good young players. Obviously they're inexperienced but they'll get experience with games and I suppose that's what the manager wanted to do when he left me out, Michael Carrick, Ashley Cole, he wanted to go with the younger players.

"Hopefully they'll do well but it's going to be a massive change ... but we'll see what happens."

Meanwhile, Defoe said he did not take offence at former manager Harry Redknapp saying some of his England players at Spurs had tried to shirk national team duty.

Current England manager Roy Hodgson and Gerrard both said Defoe should not be tarred with that brush.

"It's difficult for me (to react) because I'm not one those players," said Defoe. "I've never missed a squad and obviously I don't know who those players are. At the end of the day, when you're playing for your country, it's the greatest honour ... I always turned out for my country, even if I was half fit."

Gerrard urged Redknapp to name names but the veteran manager, who now runs Queens Park Rangers, said it would not be fair to the players in question. Defoe was one of a dozen England players at Tottenham during Redknapp's tenure.

Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen, a former New Zealand international who played under Redknapp, said he thought the comments might have been taken somewhat out of context.

Nelsen, who captained the All Whites, said he would be outraged if anyone suggested he didn't love playing for his country. But he said there's give and take when it comes to club versus country, acknowledging he had asked not to be picked for some friendlies when they were largely commercial ventures on the other side of the globe and they bumped heads with major club clashes.

While he had hoped to be playing in Brazil, Defoe welcomed the MLS break during the group stage of the World Cup. Toronto gave its players eight days off following the 1-0 win over San Jose on June 7. Still he admitted to having "itchy feet," wanting to get back to playing.

Toronto (6-4-1) returns to action Friday in New York against the Red Bulls (4-5-6).

Nelsen's only injury concerns are winger Daniel Lovitz (concussion) and Brazilian striker Gilberto (hip flexor).

Jermain Defoe (Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
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