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Aug 30, 2010

Defoe fit for England duty

Jermain Defoe has been included in Fabio Capello's England squad after the Tottenham striker shelved plans to have a groin operation that would have ruled him out of European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland.

• Forum: Thoughts on the England squad

Defoe was scheduled to have surgery next Tuesday, with an expected absence of two to four weeks, but Spurs boss Harry Redknapp said earlier this week the problem had started to clear up and the 27-year-old has made himself available for England duty.

Tottenham pair Defoe and Peter Crouch return to the fold after being rested for the recent friendly clash with Hungary at Wembley due to their Champions League commitments with their club.

Matthew Upson has been handed another opportunity to impress after he slumped to number five on Capello's list of central defenders at the World Cup after the England manager controversially drafted in Jamie Carragher and Ledley King.

He eventually played twice in the dismal campaign but was then axed for last month's victory over Hungary.

However, with John Terry pulling out through injury, Carragher once again retired from England duty and Capello no longer willing to take a chance on King's questionable fitness, Upson once again finds his services are required.

Aside from Terry, Frank Lampard and Bobby Zamora have been ruled out through injury, while both Wes Brown and Paul Robinson have retired.

As youngster Jack Wilshere has been relegated back to the Under-21 squad and doubts remain over a number of players, Capello has been forced to make extensive changes.

The faces are all familiar though, including Scott Carson, who last appeared as a substitute in the friendly win over Germany in Berlin two years ago.

Looking ahead to England's qualifying double-header, Capello said: "It will be two important games. Because in this period the players are in a good situation and physically will be strong.

"Bulgaria is a dangerous team. I watched three games that they played, two before the World Cup and the last against Russia. They lost 1-0 but they played very well, it will be a tough game that we will play here at Wembley.

"On Switzerland, they played the World Cup and they are a good team with good organisation. They have a really important manager [Ottmar Hitzfeld], and when you play away in Switzerland it is not easy to beat this team."

In all, Capello has selected 13 of his World Cup 23 for the first competitive matches of what has been dubbed a new era.

Of the remainder, only Kieran Gibbs and Manchester City's Adam Johnson could truly be described as new faces, although Joe Hart now seems to be established as first choice keeper even though he does not include a competitive appearance amongst his four caps despite being included in Capello's World Cup squad.

Central defensive concerns apart, Capello should not be blaming inexperience if England fail to collect six points from two games, starting at Wembley on Friday against a Bulgaria team now lacking the retired Dimitar Berbatov, before a trip to Basle the following Tuesday to face a dangerous Swiss team that overcame eventual winners Spain in South Africa.

England squad:

Goalkeepers: Scott Carson, Ben Foster, Joe Hart

Defenders: Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Kieran Gibbs, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, Matthew Upson

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Adam Johnson, James Milner, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Young

Strikers: Darren Bent, Carlton Cole, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney

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