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Fulham defender Konchesky dreams of World Cup

last updated Wednesday 21st April 2010, 2:41 PM
 Fulham defender Paul Konchesky
Fulham defender
Paul Konchesky
Paul Konchesky
Fulham defender Paul Konchesky isn't moaning about Fulham's gruelling journey to Hamburg for tomorrow's Europa League semi-final because he hopes it might lead to a longer trip to South Africa this summer.

The two-day overland trek to Germany - caused by the volcanic ash cloud grounding flights across much of Europe - gave the players plenty of time to look back on a season in which they have exceeded expectations.

In Konchesky's case he could reflect on the excellent form, which may yet convince Fabio Capello to add him to England's World Cup squad as cover for left-back Ashley Cole.

Ahead of the first leg against Hamburg, the Londoner said: "If the team keep doing well, you never know what could be round the corner."

Sven-Goran Eriksson handed Konchesky his England debut against Australia in 2003 and also gave him his second cap against Argentina two seasons later.

That was the 28-year-old's last international and he admitted: "I'm gutted there's not been more. But there is a world-class defender in Ashley - he's probably everything you want in a left-back. Other than that, I know Wayne Bridge has been in there, and he's all right. But Leighton Baines got a chance last time out [against Egypt in March], so a position might still be open."

Bridge, of course, has made himself unavailable for further international duty. So how compelling is Konchesky's case to be in Capello's squad? His style, making overlapping runs down the left wing, is similar to that of Chelsea's Cole. And his pin-point crossing has helped re-establish that other England hopeful, Bobby Zamora, as a regular goal scorer this term.

The whippet-like defender said: "Those runs were part of my game when I started out at Charlton and it developed under Alan Pardew at West Ham. He really wanted his full-backs to go. I brought it with me to Fulham. We play with a tight midfield and the manager, Roy Hodgson, likes his full-backs to get forward. That suits my style."

Konchesky has also proved he can play as a member of a tight defensive unit, which will be as vital to England's World Cup challenge as it has been to Fulham's remarkable march on Europe highlighted by shock victories over Shakhtar Donetsk, last year's UEFA Cup winners, and Italian giants Juventus.

Since Hodgson replaced Lawrie Sanchez, responsible for signing Konchesky from West Ham for £2.5million in July 2007, Fulham have built upon the foundation of a defence mainly featuring goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Konchesky, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes and John Pantsil.

Konchesky said: "Part of our success is down to the work we do with the manager and his staff. You can tell on the pitch we're a well-worked team. We know everyone's position and we know the shape we're supposed to keep.

"Results don't lie. Look at our Premier League position and where we are in the Europa League."

As Pantsil has not been eligible for the second half of the European campaign, either Chris Baird or Simon Davies will start at right-back tomorrow.

Konchesky, though, has no qualms about a change for the defence, which will be charged with containing the goal threat posed by former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

"This season has been a bit stop-start with injuries to John and myself but whoever has come in for us has bonded straight away with Brede and Aaron in the middle," he said.

Konchesky acknowledged that his England ambitions were not helped by his seven-week absence with an ankle ligament injury sustained at Blackburn in mid-January. He said: "That was a killer blow for me but now I feel as fit as I was before that game."

There is also a wary acceptance that the clamour for Zamora to be given an England call has yet to be heeded by national manager Capello. But Konchesky believes reaching the final, which will be back at Hamburg's HSH Nordbank Arena on 12 May, would be a big boost for his prolific team-mate.

He said: "If the team continue to do well, Bobby will thrive on that. If he can score more goals then he's got a great chance of going to the World Cup."

The two men go back a long way, to when they both played for the legendary Senrab youth team based in east London which also produced, among others John Terry, Sol Campbell, Lee Bowyer, Ledley King and Jermain Defoe.

Konchesky said: "I used to play left-wing in those days. Bobby was still up top but he was quite small back then, not like he is now. But he worked hard, he's got stronger and stronger, and he's turned out to be a fantastic player."

They were both members of the West Ham team beaten on penalties by Liverpool in the 2006 FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium.

For Konchesky, who scored a rare goal that day, the nightmare of that heartbreaking defeat will provide an extra spur tomorrow and in the return leg next Thursday.

He said: "People want to go to finals and when you get to finals you want to win them. It was a disappointing thing for me to go to Cardiff and lose. If we get to the final this time, I want to go home being a winner."

Source David Smith at Evening Standard
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