Jermain Defoe to make first England start in four years against Lithuania

Matt Law
Jermain Defoe's fine Sunderland form earned him an England recall - The FA Collection

Jermain Defoe is in line to make his first England start in four years in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley.

England manager Gareth Southgate is planning to reshuffle his team from the one that lost in Germany, with 34-year-old Defoe set to replace Jamie Vardy as the lone striker.

Defoe last played for England against Chile in November 2013, with his last start coming against San Marino in March of the same year. The Sunderland forward made his international debut in 2004 and is poised to win his 56th cap.

The decision of Southgate to start with Defoe highlights his preference to pick teams and formations for specific games, with England expected to enjoy more possession against Lithuania than they did against Germany, when Vardy got the nod.

Southgate has stressed the need for tactical flexibility and wants his side to get on the front foot and create plenty of chances on Sunday.

The England team when Jermain Defoe made his debut - where are they now?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should come in to a more attacking midfield than the one Southgate fielded in Dortmund, with Raheem Sterling also set to start after being rested in midweek.

Dele Alli and Adam Lallana, who were identified by Southgate as England’s key men after the defeat to Germany, will retain their places.

The withdrawal of Chris Smalling has left Southgate with little option but to switch back to a four-man defence with John Stones partnering Michael Keane in the middle.

Ben Gibson was called up to replace Smalling in the squad, but the Middlesbrough defender has only completed one training session with his new England team-mates which makes it extremely unlikely that he will start against Lithuania.

With Wayne Rooney left out of the squad, Jordan Henderson injured and Gary Cahill suspended, goalkeeper Joe Hart will captain England on his 70th international appearance.

Joe Hart is expected to captain England against Lithuania at Wembley Credit: Getty Images

Defoe will be joined by five-year-old Sunderland supporter Bradley Lowery, whose cancer battle has touched football fans, when he walks out on to the Wembley pitch.

England are top of the World Cup qualifying Group F table, two points ahead of Slovenia, who face Scotland at Hampden Park on Sunday night.

In his press conference at Tottenham’s training ground on Saturday, Southgate would not disclose his final decision on the striker.

He said: “They're both in very good moments. Jamie [Vardy], the last two games for us, Spain and Germany, has set the tone for the performances from the front. The way he presses and runs in behind defences. And he's in good form for his club. Equally Jermain is scoring goals for his club, doesn't get too many chances, but he's a deadly finisher. If called upon, I have every faith that he'll score goals. No question.”

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The FA has invited Rita Taylor, the widow of the former England manager Graham Taylor, to attend the game in the Royal Box, along with her two daughters and their families.

It was planned for the players to wear black armbands to mark Taylor’s passing, but they will also represent a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on Westminster on Wednesday. The players will also lay a wreath and the Metropolitan police force will be officially represented.

Defoe will be accompanied onto the pitch by the five-year-old Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery who is suffering from the cancer Neuroblastoma and whom the striker has befriended in recent months.  

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