Bent facing fight to start for England

DARREN Bent accepts he faces a fight to win a starting place in tonight's England Under-21 side for the their friendly against Croatia, writes Derek Davis.

DARREN Bent accepts he faces a fight to win a starting place in tonight's England Under-21 side for the their friendly against Croatia, writes Derek Davis.

Even though Tottenham's Bobby Zamora pulled out of the squad with an abductor strain, David Platt has five strikers to choose from for the two forward positions.

Platt has pledged to play his first-choice XI in preparation for vital European Championships qualifiers next month.

And now he must decide which two of his permutation of five – Francis Jeffers, Jermain Defoe, Carlton Cole, Shola Ameobi and Bent – start against the Croats at Upton Park.


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Jeffers and Defoe must be hopeful of getting the nod, although Platt admits Sven-Goran Eriksson's decision not to include Jeffers – who has 13 goals in 13 games for the Under-21s – in the senior squad has given him a selection dilemma.

That leaves Bent's chances looking remote, although he has scored at this level and is likely to come off the bench.

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Platt, who abandoned his policy of experimenting in friendlies after the disappointing European Championships in Switzerland last summer, said: "Franny's got a great goalscoring record full stop – not just at Under-21 level.

"So I have a very difficult selection problem for Tuesday night, but I'm paid to make decisions and I will."

Darren Ambrose, who has been recovering from injury at new club Newcastle United will probably sit alongside Bent on the bench but has a great chance of playing some part in the game.

Another 18 members of the Under-21 squad trained at Upton Park, completing a series of stretches, ball exercises and a mini-game.

The remaining five players linked up with the party at their base at the Holiday Inn at Royal Victoria Dock, east London.

The quintet arriving were Chelsea's Glen Johnson, Newcastle duo Jermaine Jenas and Ameobi, Charlton's Paul Konchesky and Wolves goalkeeper Matt Murray.

Johnson, Jenas, Ameobi and Konchesky were on club duty on Sunday while Murray was given the day off for a personal matter.

Tonight's game is a warm-up for the qualifiers in Macedonia on September 5 and at home to Portugal four days later. Platt's team are third in their qualifying group, behind Turkey and Portugal.

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