• World Cup qualifiers

Smalling targeting World Cup spot

ESPN staff
March 25, 2013

England defender Chris Smalling is eyeing a coveted starting spot in the Three Lions' back four for Brazil 2014 after finally overcoming an injury plagued season.

Smalling played a full 90 minutes in England's 8-0 World Cup qualifying thrashing of European minnows San Marino and will be looking for another start in Roy Hodgson's team when they meet Montenegro in a top-of-the-table clash.

And with doubts surrounding many of England's first-choice centre-backs, the 23-year-old is looking to hold down his spot should England qualify for next year's final.

"Am I conscious a position is up for grabs? Definitely. There were a few pull-outs for the San Marino game but it gives the people here an opportunity, " Smalling said.

"I definitely see myself as having a chance with the more games I can get. If I can get on a little run, the position is more like your own.

"I take each chance that I can get and the bigger the game, the better for me."

The Manchester United player's run in the England squad follows a 'frustrating' period where injury stints on the sidelines were long and numerous.

But with the help of club manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Hodgson, Smalling is starting to believe he can start looking forward to an optimistic future.

"It has been a frustrating season. My season didn't get started until mid-November with injuries, " he said.

"It was the second last game of the season against Swansea when I felt my groin and it ruled me out of the summer (Euro 2012).

"(But) I've been feeling good and hopefully I can finish the season strong and have a good pre-season because I didn't have a full one last summer.

"It's also great to have someone who has confidence in you, Alex Ferguson at United and Roy Hodgson with England, and it gives you confidence.

"It gives me a bit of faith to go out there and just play the game.

"It's not been a great season but I just hope next season I can stay injury fit and play more games. "

And the first game in Smalling's line of sight is against Group H leaders Montenegro.

"I'll be ready if I'm selected on Tuesday, " Smalling said. "We see their results so we know it's going to be a close one and Tuesday is a massive game.

"Away games like this can be very intimidating and, if you get the crowd onside, it's like they got an extra man.

"So if we stay level headed and try and keep the crowd quiet, then it will be to our advantage.

"This is the big one of the season against a team which is arguably fighting for top spot with us."

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