In-form Cottagers striker should win first cap for Egypt friendlyWhile the column inches surrounding England manager Fabio Capello’s next squad selection have been dominated by two defenders – John Terry and Wayne Bridge – for reasons far removed from matters on the pitch, at the other end, Fulham’s Bobby Zamora has been staking a claim for a place in England's World Cup squad.
Capello is set to announce his squad for the March 3 friendly against Egypt on the weekend of the February 27/28 - and with chances to impress prior to this summer’s pinnacle of international football limited to a selected few outings, Zamora, 29, must now be in the Italian's thoughts as he continues to blossom under Fulham manager Roy Hodgson.
It has been a long road for Bobby Zamora. After impressing at Brighton and Hove Albion, a move to Tottenham Hotspur turned sour as he failed to hold down a place in the starting XI in a handful of appearances at White Hart Lane.
At West Ham United he showed early promise but his stay ended unceremoniously as he departed for Fulham in 2008. His lack of goals had been a source of frustration for a number of years.
Under Hodgson this season though, Zamora may have finally cracked it - just in time for a summer trip to South Africa. Often leading the line alone for the southwest London club, Zamora has grasped his raw ability by the scruff of the neck in 2009/10 and has shown the qualities - strength, power, pace and an eye for goal - he had only alluded to in fits and starts in the past.
The Cottagers front man set about displaying some of those qualities inside just three minutes at Craven Cottage on Thursday night. Fulham raced out of the blocks, pressing an otherwise dominant Shakhtar Donetsk side early on and when the ball fell to Zamora, he expertly held off a challenge and cushioned the ball into the path of Zoltan Gera, who slotted home for a dream start.
Zamora regularly showcased his ability as a target man for the duration, winning headers and running the channels to great effect, but the icing on the cake was his stunning 63rd-minute strike, turning to hammer the ball off the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards, in a game where genuine chances were few and far between.
It was an historic night for Fulham, beating the reigning UEFA Cup champions, but for Zamora, Thursday night’s performance was just another game in an already impressive season. The former West Ham man has now bagged 14 goals in 32 appearances in all competitions, shrugging off a broken collarbone picked up against Stoke in January that pundits and analysts feared would derail his season to notch three strikes upon his return.
The chants of “When the ball hits your head/and you’re sat in row Z/that’s Zamora,” may have been silenced, but the forward remains an unglamorous choice amongst England fans. With the groans at Emile Heskey’s every touch of the ball becoming more and more audible with each international, the nation is seemingly crying out for Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe to partner the rampant Wayne Rooney in South Africa.
Rare celebration | Zamora struggled at West Ham
For all of Defoe’s 21 goals this season, and indeed similar returns from Sunderland’s Darren Bent (16) and Heskey’s Aston Villa strike partner Gabriel Agbonlahor (12), Capello’s unwavering stance suggests he is likely to stick with the successful system that takes the Three Lions to the World Cup and sees a ‘big man’ partnering Rooney in attack. Of all the archetypal English target men in the Premier League, Zamora is the in-form option, looking unplayable at times.
Zamora so nearly closed the door on a call-up to any possible future England squad himself as he reportedly flirted with the idea of playing for Trinidad and Tobago, the country of his father’s origin.
But if he continues to cause problems for helpless defenders while finding the net with regularity in the process, Capello should put a cap on his head at Wembley Stadium next month to avoid letting the late-blooming 29-year-old slip through his fingers.