Defoe: Slovenia goal was sweet revenge for Sven snub four years ago
Published 23:00 24/06/10 By Martin Lipton
Revenge is a dish best-served cold. And the only disappointment for Jermain Defoe last night was that he had not delivered his speciality on Sven Goran Eriksson's plate.
Defoe's trademark strike against Slovenia to salvage England's World Cup campaign was the moment the Spurs man had been waiting his entire career to savour.
But it meant more than just a goal on the biggest stage for the Tottenham hitman, his team-mates and family, setting England up for their showdown with Germany in Bloemfontein.
This one was personal, a message for Eriksson, four years after the Swede left Defoe as low as at any time in his career.
In hindsight, Eriksson's decision to leave Defoe out of his 23 for Germany, instead selecting the injured Wayne Rooney, the struggling Michael Owen and the unready Theo Walcott, looks even more crazy now than it did then.
When Eriksson justified his selection after England finished the tournament with Peter Crouch as the only valid option, dismissing Defoe's international credentials with a blunt "I don't think so", the pain was deepened.
Four years on and Defoe knows he has made his point.
"When something like what happened to me in 2006 takes place it spurs you on," said Defoe, whose 12th international goal, and ninth in 16 appearances under Fabio Capello, represents a stark rebuttal to the Ivory Coast boss.
"You just want to prove people wrong and show you should've been there.
"At the start of the tournament in Germany, it was hard leaving the camp, especially being there with the lads feeling really sharp, feeling ready.
"I was on standby in case there were injuries but I still worked hard in training. I didn't think 'I'm not going so there's no point'. I tried to be positive and professional.
"All the lads were saying 'I can't believe you're not going'. I can't remember who but one of the boys said I should talk to the manager and tell him I was sharp and could bring something to the team.
"I didn't. It was difficult. In the back of my mind I knew he'd made his decision. But even when I went home I watched every game."
While Defoe was inundated with messages of congratulations for his predatory strike against Slovenia, Eriksson was not among those who got in touch, although the striker admitted he had not been expecting one. "Sven?," he said. "I changed my number."
But Defoe's number was red-hot yesterday, even though the Spurs man admitted his reaction to the moment he had dreamed of since childhood was one of sheer disbelief.
"As a kid, when you picture yourself scoring a goal in the World Cup, you don't really think about the team you'll score against," he added. "You just think about actually scoring.
"To represent your country and score at a World Cup, it's hard to describe the feeling. But my cousin rang and said I seemed shocked when I'd scored.
"You practice things all your life, going across the front post and finishing, and when you do it and actually score, it's a great feeling. To win the game as well was so special."
Special for nobody more than Defoe's mother Sandra, flying out to South Africa last night so she can watch the forward against Germany on Sunday.
He said: "She was really emotional after the game. What happened to me last time was quite difficult for everybody involved with me.
"My Mum knows what I'm like. I always work hard. When I train, I try my best to improve every day. I live my life right, do my work in the gym, recover right and prepare right. She just said: 'You deserve it'.
"She really calmed me down before the game because I was so fired up and couldn't sleep the night before the game. She just said: 'All you've got to do is relax and enjoy it. You've worked all you life for this. If you get a chance be confident and you will score'."
"When I play with Crouchy it looks more natural because I train with him every day but I thought it worked well with Wayne, with the movement.
"If he drops in I go long and if I drop in he goes long, while we switched around in the box. All the things we've done in training we did in the game.
"The thing about Wazza is that no matter how the game and even if things aren't going right he always tries to make things happen and believes something is going to happen. And I am sure if he keeps doing that he will definitely get us a goal."
And Defoe revealed that he had been given the nod by Capello when he bumped into the coach in the gym on Tuesday morning and insisted his partnership with Wayne Rooney can really take wing.
He said: "I knew the day before the game when I met the manager in the gym - he's always there in the morning doing his weights - and he asked me if I was ready to play and I just said 'Yes'."