6:00am Tuesday 11th March 2014
By Gordon Simpson
José Fonte believes that Saints top scorer Jay Rodriguez would be a real asset for England in this summer’s World Cup.
Rodriguez netted his 13th goal of the season in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, just days after returning from international duty.
Roy Hodgson will name his squad for Brazil on May 13, and Fonte hopes his teammate can continue to put pressure on the England boss to select him.
“He showed his pace, his desire, and he wants to be there in the World Cup, he wants to be in the squad, so I think this goal will do him good,” said the centre-half.
“Hopefully he can score a few more until the end of the season and be on the plane to Brazil.”
Rodriguez was handed his England debut last November and has been included in Hodgson’s last two squads.
However, having not featured in the most recent friendly, a 1-0 win against Denmark, he appears to be facing a major battle to earn one of the 23 places on offer this summer.
Yet Fonte, who says Rodriguez has thrived under the guidance of Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino, believes that the forward could be a real asset to his country in the tournament.
“Definitely. If you give him confidence, like this manager does, and if you trust him, he’ll cause problems with his pace and power.”
Rodriguez can be a terrifying prospect for an opposition defence when he is in full flow, possessing a potent blend of speed, poise and control.
Fonte knows all too well about the difficulty of negating such a threat, having had first-hand experience of facing the 24-year-old on the training ground.
That challenge, according to Fonte, is one that has also resulted in Saints’ defenders improving their own game.
“He’s such a quick player, and powerful,” he said.
“He’s one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the dressing room, so it’s very hard, but he makes you improve.
“He makes me and the other defenders improve, because he’s tough, he’s quick, he’s powerful, so it’s a very good test against him in training.”
Of Rodriguez’s 13 goals this season, 11 have come in the Premier League.
It is an impressive return for someone who is not deployed as an out-and-out striker.
But Fonte says Pochettino’s willingness to let Rodriguez roam has helped him improve his tally.
“He has a lot of freedom,” he said. “I know he plays on the left, but the gaffer gives him a lot of freedom.
“He can drift into the middle and he’s been scoring his goals. It’s good for him, and hopefully he can continue.”
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