Defour still dreaming of returning for World Cup

Steven Defour in action against Southampton
Steven Defour in action against Southampton
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Clarets midfielder Steven Defour is still hopeful of making the plane for the World Cup in Russia.

The Belgium international is expected to miss the remainder of the season after surgery on a knee problem, having started every Premier League game for Burnley up to the end of January.

But he hasn’t given up his dream of playing at the World Cup. Defour was a regular in the Belgium squad during their qualifying campaign, but only featured against Gibraltar in October 2016.

Roberto Martinez’s side open the group phase on June 18th against Panama, and they also face Tunisia before the final group game against England on June 28th.

And the former Wigan and Everton boss last week told a group of Belgian sports journalists in Sint-Niklaas : “Steven has always done very well in the national team and was also doing a good season at Burnley, I know his skills very well and we will give him every opportunity to play in the selection.”

Defour’s representative Christian Pala was encouraged by Martinez’s words, and hopes his form for the Clarets this season will stand him in good stead.

Pala said: “I always said, the first thing is being an important player for Burnley, showing every week what he is capable of, playing at the biggest level.

“The rest comes with that, like Belgium and the World Cup.

“The injury is not great timing for the World Cup, but Roberto Martinez said at the weekend in Belgium that he doesn’t rule out him until he needs to make his final selection.

“He played every game for Burnley, 24, in the Premier League so we’ll see what happens. He will be picked on his form up to his injury, if he is fit.

“The doctor says there is potential to be fit in June, so we will see. There is a small chance, but a chance.”

Defour was named in the Belgium squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, by coach Marc Wilmots, and made his debut in the finals in the final group match against South Korea.

But he was sent off in the last minute of the first half of the eventual 1–0 win after a reckless challenge tackle on Kim Shin-wook.