- Eriksson caused a sensation when he picked the uncapped Walcott in his squad
- Defoe was placed on a stand-by list but still had to travel out to Germany
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England manager Eriksson caused a sensation when he picked 17-year-old Walcott – who hadn’t even played a first-team match for Arsenal at that point – over Tottenham‘s Defoe for the tournament in Germany.
Defoe, a fairly established England international, was only named on the squad stand-by list and travelled to Germany initially before returning home when Wayne Rooney was passed fit to play following a foot injury.
Eriksson defended his decision after the tournament by saying: ‘Jermain had a very bad season. I don’t think he deserved to go to the World Cup. Taking Theo was the right decision.’
That’s despite Walcott not playing a single minute during the tournament as England crashed out on penalties to Portugal at the quarter-final stage.
Sven-Goran Eriksson caused a sensation when he selected uncapped 17-year-old Theo Walcott (right) in England’s squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany
Children wear England shirts with the names of those in the 2006 squad, including Walcott
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Chatting with Troy Deeney on the BBC’s Football Firsts podcast, Defoe said: ‘The boys said to me ‘JD, please go and speak to the boss. Tell him you have to go.’
‘Because Theo hadn’t even played a Premier League game. The only thing that got me through that summer – because that was tough, man, I was hurt – was just seeing England fans [saying] ‘Jermain should have been going.’
‘It was nice, that was the only thing that got me through it and I actually travelled.
‘I was on stand-by, but the manager wanted me to travel, to be around the squad.
‘I remember, it was the sharpest and fittest I felt all season.’
Defoe, who would finally get to represent England at a World Cup in 2010, also revealed Eriksson tried to sign him when he was Man City boss in 2007-08.
‘I bumped into him in Manchester, in Wing’s [Chinese restaurant] and he said to me, ‘do you want to come to Man City?’ He said.
Defoe (bottom), speaking to Troy Deeney on the BBC’s Football Firsts show, revealed Eriksson tried to sign him when Manchester City manager despite the World Cup squad
Eriksson left the England job in 2006 and became Manchester City manager in 2007-08
Defoe did finally get the chance to play for England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
‘So it’s like, ‘hold on, I’m good enough to play for you now.’
Defoe played briefly for Portsmouth before returning to Spurs for a second stint and rounded off his career at Sunderland, Bournemouth and Rangers.
In total, he scored 20 times in 57 appearances for England.