José Fonte has refuted suggestions that Saints do not have anything left to play for in the league this season.
The club remain ninth in the table after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Stoke, well ahead of those teams below them, but also some way short of the European positions.
Fonte, however, does not subscribe to the argument that Saints have little to fight for now in the Premier League.
“No, we do,” he said, emphatically. “In our minds, we have to catch up Newcastle, we have to catch up Man United if we can, and finish as high as possible.
“People want to go to Brazil, people want to be in the plane to Brazil, so we have a lot to play for. Don’t get me wrong, we want to win every game.”
Fonte is one of those players who still harbours an ambition of making it to this summer’s World Cup.
“I do, yes,” he said.
The Portuguese defender has never been capped at senior level by his country, but he believes his form has been good enough to at least offer him some hope that there could be an opportunity.
Portugal host Cameroon in a friendly next month, and Fonte would love nothing more than a chance to prove himself to head coach Paulo Bento.
Asked if there had been any contact from the Portuguese FA, the 30-year-old said: “To be honest, no. But why not? Why can’t I dream about it?
“If I keep playing, and keep playing well, I hope I have a chance at least to prove myself.”
Fonte’s teammate, Morgan Schneiderlin, is in a similar position to him, with a France call-up yet to arrive, despite his excellent club form.
“I’m sure they are aware,” said Fonte, of the decision makers in both countries.
“In France’s case, I’m a little bit surprised, because Morgan has been fantastic; last season, this season he’s been amazing again.
“If he’s not in the team he should be knocking on the door, for sure.
“In my case, I’ve been performing this season well and I just have to hope that he will be reminded of me, so we will see.”
Fonte believes this season has been the best he has ever produced, and he puts that down to the arrival of the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, who was a centre-half for Argentina in his playing days.
“Yes, definitely (this is my best ever season),” said Fonte, who has formed a particularly commanding partnership with Dejan Lovren at the heart of defence this term.
“I think since the manager came, since Mauricio took over, he made me a better player. That’s the truth.
“He made me a better player and I feel good, I feel confident. Physically, I’m in the best shape of my life, so I feel like this has been my best season so far.
“He gives a lot of emphasis to the defensive line. Tactically he’s very, very good.
“He gives you a lot of advice in terms of positioning, in terms of aggressivity, anticipation, interceptions, play, be brave, and he gives you the confidence to go on the pitch and give everything for him.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s draw at St Mary’s, Fonte admitted there was a lot of disappointment in the camp at the result.
“We gave away two goals cheaply and, in these kind of games, that we’re not at our best, when we are in winning positions we cannot concede goals like this, so it’s disappointing,” he said.