Roy Hodgson’s 26 man preliminary squad for Euro 2016 included five strikers with Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and most surprisingly Marcus Rashford preferred to Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe.
Unquestionably, Defoe had an outstanding season with the 33 year old netting 15 goals and playing the pivotal role in his side’s ultimate survival in the top flight.
The fact that Defoe was even talked about as a potential England candidate again was testament to his fine form, particularly in the closing weeks of the campaign given most assumed his international career was over when he swapped North London for Toronto and missed out on the final World Cup squad in 2014.
A stacked forward-line
Defoe’s disappointment at missing out on that squad was much publicised but two years on and competition for places is considerably tougher, particularly when you consider that five strikers are likely to be whittled down to four by the time the final squad is announced with Rashford most likely to miss out.
As captain Rooney was always going to be selected although he’s unlikely to fill the central striker role at Euro 2016, he’s clearly an option in that position. Likewise Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy were obvious choices after stunning seasons for their clubs in which they finished as the Premier League’s top two scorers with 25 and 24 goals respectively.
Daniel Sturridge has had well documented troubles with injuries this season, but has performed well in an England shirt over the past few years. He is still rightly held in high regard by Hodgson as arguably the country’s most gifted finisher and 10 goals in 17 starts this season for Liverpool showed his goal touch has certainly not deserted him.
Few would argue that Sturridge is not a more talented all-round striker than Defoe and fitness doubts were likely to be the only thing that would prevent him from getting a call-up.
However the Liverpool man completed 90 minutes six times in the final month of the campaign, winning man of the match in two of those games while his stunning strike against Sevilla in the Europa League final further justified Hodgson’s call.
Youth over experience
With England typically playing with just one central striker during the Hodgson era, it’s highly likely that he will take four not five forwards to France. Picking Defoe as the fifth striker only to yet again axe him from the final squad, which has happened a couple of times during his international career, may have seemed like a cruel and rather pointless exercise.
Instead Hodgson opted for Rashford, who will relish his chance to get involved with the England set-up even if it is only for a short time. He’s also a more flexible player than Defoe in that he could occupy a wide role and is certainly a closer replica to the injured Danny Welbeck, a player Hodgson has always valued highly and would have almost certainly gone to Euro 2016 if fit.
Ultimately: a recall was unlikely
Jermaine Defoe couldn’t really have done a lot more this season to forward his case but when you consider the likes of Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott were also left out it becomes clear that England currently have an embarrassment of riches in the forward positions, something that has rarely been the case.
With a manager that has always tended to favour youth over experience, 33 year old Defoe was never likely to get an England recall.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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