World Cup door open for Defoe, Dike called up for Nigeria friendly

Shaun Botterill

With teams starting to gear up for this summer's World Cup there is a lot of talk about two Toronto FC players who are currently on the bubble for their respective national teams.

Toronto FC could have four players heading to the World Cup.  Barring any sort of injury Michael Bradley will represent the United States, if the club can complete the deal for Julio Cesar he will be on Brazil's squad, and then you have Bright Dike and Jermain Defoe who are on the fringes for Nigeria and England respectively.

For Bright Dike his World Cup hopes got a bit of a boost today as he was included in the latest Nigerian squad.  He was among the 23 players selected by head coach Stephen Kenshi for their game against Mexico on March 5th.  That game is set to take place in Atlanta so it will be a shorter trip for Dike which means he will be back with TFC in plenty of time for their opener against the Seattle Sounders on March 15th.

Kenshi's latest Nigeria squad is loaded with attacking options though so Dike will need to impress once more to ensure that he remains in the team as they move closer to the World Cup.  He was one of eight forwards to get called up and will join the likes of Newcastle's Shola Ameobi, Fenerbahce's Emmanuel Emenike, and Chievo's Victor Obinna.  The other high profile Nigerian in MLS, Obafemi Martins, was not included in the latest squad.

At TFC's media day earlier this week, Dike spent a fair bit of time fielding questions about his World Cup hopes.  Having received good feedback after his last camp which included scoring his first international goal in the friendly against Italy he is now hopeful that a strong start to the MLS season could be enough to get him into the World Cup squad.  He is aiming for a breakout season and he might just need that to make Kenshi's team this summer.

There was also a bit of an update on the World Cup hopes of Jermain Defoe.  The player is two weeks away from leaving Tottenham Hotspur for TFC and in the eyes of some that move would be the end of his World Cup dream.  That is not the case for Roy Hogdson though as he left the door open for Defoe when speaking to the media this week.

While Hodgson was noncommittal about the chances of Defoe making the England team he left the door open which was more than he did for John Terry.  He also noted that Ashley Cole may have a fight on his hands if he wants to make the England team.  For Defoe he said the call-up would come down to what he already knows about the player rather than what he does with Toronto FC.

This is what Hodgson had to say about the forward (via thefa.com)

"He will be playing but he will be playing in a league a long way from the top league over here, but that won't change anything as far as I am concerned," said Hodgson.

"I know him and what he can do and I will pick him on those merits, and if he doesn't get picked it will be because on this occasion, there wasn't space so I preferred others.

"But if I do pick him, it won't be because he wasn't playing at Spurs and now he is at Toronto because I don't know that.

"When he comes with an England team, I know what I get from him because he is a very, very reliable player and he has been a wonderful servant in the time I have been with England."

That was a lot of fence sitting from Hodgson in that interview but it is good to hear that he does not consider the move to MLS being enough to make Defoe a lesser player in just a matter of months.  He even offered a fair evaluation of MLS by saying it is a long way from the Premier League.

All of these statements would seem like common sense for Hodgson but given what many in the English media have said about Defoe's move to Toronto it is a breath of fresh air to hear common sense.  Hopefully, others around him now take note that TFC will not instantly ruin Defoe and that MLS, while not the Premier Leauge, is still a decent league.

So with several months to go until the World Cup their remains a real possibility of Toronto FC having four players represent them on the games biggest stage.  The fact that they could be represented on four different countries and potentially on a World Cup winner is unprecedented in MLS.

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