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Bent eyeing World Cup berth

Fulham striker Darren Bent is targeting a place in England’s World Cup squad after a return to first-team football at Fulham.

The clinical striker was a regular towards the end of Fabio Capello’s reign before injury, and then a lack of playing time at Aston Villa, undermined his international chances under Roy Hodgson.

England still need to on Tuesday beat Poland to guarantee qualification for next summer’s tournament in Brazil but despite Fulham’s early season-struggles and England’s relatively strong options up front, Bent believes a place in Hodgson’s squad is a realistic target.

‘I hope I can get into the World Cup squad, it’s been a while since I was involved,’ the striker told The People. ‘If I score a few goals this season and Fulham do well then I will give myself a chance.

‘I’m not looking too far ahead but if I have a good season I will give myself the best opportunity to be in the squad.

‘I would like to get the nod but Jermain (Defoe) deserves to be in there because he still scores a lot of goals, and Rickie Lambert has done well.’

Bent was likely to feature throughout Euro 2012 until an ankle injury effectively ended his 2011/2012 season prematurely having also been considered highly unfortunate to have missed out on selection for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups despite prolific seasons.

He scored 22 goals in 44 games with Charlton before Sven Goran Eriksson gambled on taking only four strikers, two of whom were unfit, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, and another then unproven, Theo Walcott, who was only 17.

In 2009/2010, Bent scored 25 in 41 for Sunderland but Capello selected Peter Crouch, Defoe, Rooney and Emile Heskey.

Given Rooney, Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck are all very likely to make Hodgson’s squad should England secure qualification, Rickie Lambert, Andy Carroll, Bent and Defoe are likely to compete for any remaining places.

Schwarzer shares secrets of his success

There’s an interesting profile of Mark Schwarzer from SBS as the Fulham goalkeeper edges closer to his hundredth cap for Australia.

Fitness permitting, Schwarzer should reach the international landmark after a friendly against Scotland at Easter Road in August and the Socceroos’ latest World Cup qualifier in Jordan the following month. Should Australia make it all the way to Brazil in 2014, Schwarzer will replace legendary Italian custodian Dino Zoff as the oldest goalkeeper to play in a World Cup finals.

Reflecting on a twenty-year career, which was celebrated when he was named Australia’s best ever goalkeeper at a Sydney ceremony last week, Schwarzer suggested that nutrition and a strict fitness regime have helped him maintain his consistently high performance levels well into his late thirties.

It’s all to do with the way you look after yourself, the way you train and live your life. I’ve also been fortunate with injuries over the years but by the same token I do a lot of work to prevent injuries. I also do a lot of good old hard work because I still have the desire to keep on playing as long as possible at the highest level.

It’s not difficult at all to keep my motivation going. For me if I find it difficult to get motivated to get up and go to football every day then I would definitely consider retiring. I still get very excited about playing games and going to training. I like training because I enjoy working out to keep fit. And I’m doing that then it makes it easy.

The 39 year-old admitted that he could never have envisaged embarking on a professional career with such longevity when he was sitting on the Australian bench waiting for a chance to make his international debut, which came abruptly when former number one Robert Zabica was sent off against Canada in 1993.

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I would be playing almost 20 years later and nudging 100 caps for my country. I don’t suppose anyone would imagine playing for that long. I think these things evolve as times goes by. A lot of things have to fall in your favour along the way and you need a lot of hard work and dedication.

You get a lot of ups and downs in your career and there are a lot of factors that dictate if you play that long or get that many caps. So I feel very privileged to have reached this stage of my career and I’m enjoying every moment of it. The last two years have been the most enjoyable in my life in football terms.

Schwarzer’s German heritage also meant that his goalkeeping heroes as a child were largely European ‘like Harald Schumacher to a degree and particularly Jean-Marie Pfaff and later Bodo Illgner’. As a consummate professional, it is no surprise that Schwarzer feels footballers should act as ambassadors for the game and to the children who dream of emulating them.

Behaviour is definitely an aspect of one’s career. But you get that (mix) in all walks of life. There are those who believe that they should act responsibly on and off the pitch while others choose to live their own lifestyle.

But it is true that there are always repercussions to your actions. As far as I’m concerned I’ve always set a standard that I’ve tried to follow on and off the field. And when you become a father it becomes even more important to you because you want to lead by example.

The article concludes with Schwarzer looking ahead towards Brazil – insisting that representing Australia in the World Cup ‘is a very realistic target but beyond that is too far for me’. Whether Martin Jol makes a change in the Fulham goal before then, given the promising performances of David Stockdale in recent seasons, will be another big decision for the Dutch coach.

Schwarzer eager for more success

Mark Schwarzer has rejected any suggestions of retirement being on the horizon as he targets more success with Fulham and Australia.

The Australian goalkeeper, now 39, admits that travelling to represent his country can be gruelling at times but he is keen to continue his international career at another World Cup – in Brazil in 2014. He hopes to figure prominently for Fulham, with whom he reached the Europa League final back in 2010, as well. Speaking before Fulham’s latest Europa League tie with FC Twente, Schwarzer left the assembled press pack in doubt as to the extent of his determination:

When people ask me about the travelling, especially with the national team and the amount of games I play, I always say that it’s a mental approach. You’re a long time retired and there’s plenty of time to recuperate once you’ve finished playing football.

When you talk about the demands of the Premier League – yes, they are tough but you’re playing in one of the best leagues in the world and you wouldn’t expect it to be any different. For me, I want to play for my national team as much as possible. It’s an honour for me and whenever I get the opportunity to play I will take it.

I want to play as many games as I can and when you come to play in Europe, you just learn to adapt. A lot of it is about your mental approach and of course your fitness.

Off the back of the season that we reached the Europa League Final, in a campaign in which I played 70 games, I went to a World Cup. If that’s not enough to lift anyone then nothing will. You want to be successful and together with the Team as long as possible.

Things I Learnt From The World Cup…

So, what did we learn from the recent World Cup competition in South Africa then? Aside from the fact that I realised that I there is still bad blood between myself and Forlan (more on my side than his, I suspect…) a few things stood out for me.

For a start we found out how to properly pronounce Dikagoki’s name. I’ve been pottering about since we signed him saying Dik-a-Ghook-wee like some kind of prize idiot. But now we all know better.

We need to get Paintsil a flag. He loved it. I’m a fan of his laps of honour at the conclusion of matches as it is, but after Ghana won a game he was a presented with a flag and his was almost bursting with excitement as his circumnavigated the pitch. When I travel to a cold, wet and depressing Rotherham, where we scrape a one nil victory over them in the Carling Cup this would make the journey all worthwhile. It also appears that he’s quite useful with a long throw too. While I’m the last person who would suggest we become like Stoke perhaps this could come in use at some point next season?

It also appears, whilst the whole of London was getting (over) excited about the England USA game, there is still at least one pub that refused to cave in to the hype and instead chose to show Doctor Who on the big screen. Not to be swayed by the fact people came and left quite quickly after realising, and the bar itself was empty, the barman stuck to his guns and plumped for the TimeLord over depressing football. Well done him.

We all knew it before, but ITV are a bit useless at Football coverage. Adrian Chiles spent the first week looking like a rabit caught in headlights, and the commentators weren’t much better. I believe it was John Champion who spent a good ten minutes using Norwegian stereotypes while talking about Denmark. “The team from the very north of Europe” were described as “The Vikings”, and while I know as the Viking ‘empire expanded they did eventually take in Denmark, surely easier stereotypical images of the peninsular could have been Lego, Hans Christian Anderson or Bacon. Sloppy work.

We also found out, again it came as no surprise, that Alan Green off Radio 5Live knows very little about anything. Picture the scene, it’s the morning before the England USA game and up pipes the Irishman with “”What on earth are we even discussing the goalkeeping position for? We’re only playing USA, for goodness sake.” Only one thing was ever gonna happen from then on. David Pleat, on the same network, demonstrated why he never ventured far from these green and pleasant lands. After Frances hilarious elimination from the tournament his final summary was “Au revoir Italy!” Nice one.

Garth Crooks often irritates me, what with his Spuds bias and the fact he’s not very good on the telly, but I’ve grown to like him now. Fifty two year old Crooks doesn’t seem to be a big fan of Kanu, “I don’t care what his passport says, that man is older than me.” Now he does seem to have been around a long time, but…

But the best part was that Crooks’ wife called him during the match he was giving his expert analysis on and told him to change his trousers before half time because he looked a mess. 4,000miles away, on a jolly up with the boys, all on the licence fee payer, yet he’s still properly under the thumb.

And finally, it’s been a month, and I’m still trying to work out what our boy Dempsey meant with this quote after the England USA game. There’s something in there, but I just can’t get it. “Even though they did score early, when we came back and we equalised, they just seemed edgy. There just seemed to be an edge to the team but it could have just been the opening game. But they were edgy, there was an edginess to their game.”

Well, thank goodness that it’s over for another four years, and it’s now less than a month until the proper football begins again. Hurrah!!