Knight intent on seizing the day
Zat Knight is poised to make his full England debut in tomorrow's friendly international with Colombia - with a glowing testament from Sven-Goran Eriksson ringing in his ears.
Knight replaced Sol Campbell at the heart of the England defence for the second half of Saturday's triumph over the United States in Chicago after the Arsenal defender suffered an ankle injury.
Now the 25-year-old looks certain to be in the starting line-up alongside Wes Brown in the appropriately-named Giants Stadium. Knight is 6ft 6in tall.
By his own admission Knight is surprised to be in the squad given that Fulham flirted with relegation from the Premiership for the majority of the 2004-2005 campaign.
But he was elevated after Matthew Upson withdrew with a hernia problem and the stand-by defender Michael Dawson pulled out because of a calf injury.
Eriksson admitted: 'Zat Knight is a player that I have been aware of for some time - and he has all the attributes to be a top defender.
'The tour is an opportunity to show he has the ability to play at the highest level and on Saturday I said to him and the others like [Kieran] Richardson, `play football as you can, don't become nervous and keep relaxed'.'
Knight admits he would have been in Miami now on holiday had he not received the call from Eriksson but he was more than happy to cancel.
He said: 'I was very shocked when I got a call-up to the squad. Fulham haven't done too well this season. As a club we have under-achieved and there are a few more high-profile clubs than Fulham.
'But a lack of available centre-halves gave me the chance and I took it on Saturday in what was a very competitive game for a friendly.
'I was told after 10 minutes to go and warm up because Sol had a bit of a knock. At half-time he said he couldn't carry on. It was unfortunate for him but it gave me my chance.
'There are a lot of top quality centre-halves in the Premiership. All I can do is do a job at Fulham and, if I get a chance, I've got to take it.
'If I had not been picked, I would have been in Miami now. I had booked to come over on Tuesday. But this is a really good opportunity for me. I am very excited and would love to play on Tuesday.'
Birmingham-born Knight was a youth player at West Brom but was spotted by Benfica, who offered him a two-year contract after a trial period only for then Fulham manager Kevin Keegan to secure his services in 1999.
He had a loan spell at Peterborough before making the first-team breakthrough at Craven Cottage in September 2000 in a League Cup tie against Northampton.
Knight made a big impression in 2001-2002 and shone at the end of that season for the England Under-21 side in the European Championship finals. Now he has the opportunity to show he can repeat that on the biggest stage.
Eriksson is anticipating that Colombia will provide a different sort of test to the direct style of the host nation.
He said: 'They will not kick long balls like the USA. They will try to keep the ball and technically they are very good. When you defend you have to have a very good shape when you defend otherwise you can run and run and never get the ball.'
Eriksson will have skipper David Beckham and striker Michael Owen to bolster his rapidly depleting sources after they joined up with the squad on Sunday following the end of their club commitments with Real Madrid.
But, in addition to Campbell, two-goal hero Richardson is unlikely to be fit because of a hamstring injury while Peter Crouch is given only a 50-50 chance of making his debut because of the ankle injury sustained in training on Friday.
Crystal Palace striker Andy Johnson and Manchester United defender Wes Brown were also absent from training because of calf and knee injuries respectively.
But the duo are both expected to be available for Tuesday's clash.