TORONTO – Jermain Defoe held out hope unti the final day, but when England national team manager Roy Hodgson revealed his 23-man England national team roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the striker was nowhere to be found.
The former Tottenham Hotspur star joined Toronto FC early in the year, hoping that the combination of regular playing time and goalscoring would secure his spot in the England team, but Hodgson called up four other forwards, instead: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be at peace [with the decision],” Defoe told reporters at training Friday. “If I had an injury, then I could sort of like, understand it and I could hold my hands up and say, ‘you know, missed that with injury and it’s not meant to be.’ In my head, it’s sort of baffling a little bit. I don’t understand it, but it’s important to remain positive.”
“When you’ve been involved in every squad and the World Cup comes around and you’re not in the 23, it’s hard to understand,” Defoe added.
It wasn't for Hodgson's lack of communication, though, as Defoe acknowledged that the pair had discussed his omission from the roster.
“He basically said the young players have done well and there’s not a place in the 23,” Defoe told MLSsoccer.com. “The manager called me, he said what he had to say and you’ve got to accept it. You might not agree, but you have to accept it and focus on playing for your club.”
Despite being left out of the 23-man roster, Defoe still has a chance to make England’s World Cup team if a player is injured, as one of the seven reserves in Hodgson’s 30-man selection.
“I remember the last World Cup, there was some players on standby, and in South Africa, Rio Ferdinand got injured and Michael Dawson got called in,” Defoe said. “There’s an FA Cup final coming up, players can get injured but I don’t want that to happen. I don’t wish that on anyone. It’s special for all the young players that have been picked. Being on standby is difficult but at the same time I wouldn’t wish any of the players got injured because if that was me, I would be heartbroken.”
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For Toronto FC, there is at least one silver lining; if he is not called from the standby list Defoe will be available to play during the World Cup, an important turn of events considering Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar will be away with the US and Brazilian national teams, respectively.
“It’s a blessing in disguise for us, but you never like to benefit from somebody’s misfortunes,” head coach Ryan Nelsen said. “I felt really bad for Jermain because I think he deserves to be in that team. I’ve played against them all, and if there’s 20 minutes to go and the ball lands at somebody’s feet, I know who I don’t want it to land in front of and that’s Jermain Defoe.”