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Modric a danger to England's World Cup hopes - Woodgate

PUBLISHED: 12:35 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:22 07 September 2010

LONDON - AUGUST 31:  Jonathan Woodgate of Tottenham Hotspur backs in to Joe Cole of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on August 31, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

LONDON - AUGUST 31: Jonathan Woodgate of Tottenham Hotspur backs in to Joe Cole of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on August 31, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

2008 Getty Images

JONATHAN Woodgate has picked out Tottenham team-mate Luka Modric as Croatia s danger man ahead of England s vital World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. Woodgate, who was surprisingly overlooked by Fabio Capello for both Saturday s trip to Andorra and in Croat

JONATHAN Woodgate has picked out Tottenham team-mate Luka Modric as Croatia's danger man ahead of England's vital World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

Woodgate, who was surprisingly overlooked by Fabio Capello for both Saturday's trip to Andorra and in Croatia after playing against the Czech Republic at Wembley, believes the pocket-size playmaker needs to be marked out of the game.

"Luka is the key man for Croatia," Woodgate told Ham&High Sport. "I've given him a bit of a kick in training because he won't get close to me in the game," he joked.

"Seriously, Luka is a brilliant player and he's already shown the talent that he has this season."

Woodgate, who was outstanding against Chelsea on Sunday, believes England have to avoid defeat in Croatia if they are to have a realistic chance of qualifying for the finals in South Africa.

"Croatia will be a very difficult game," he said. "They pay similarly to the Czechs and it will be a great test for us.

"The main thing is we qualify for the World Cup. We need good results in the both games, starting in Andorra.

"There was an improvement against the Czechs, who are a good side as they showed in the European Championships.

"But obviously, we'll have to improve again because Croatia are a top side. It won't be easy, we know that. We went there the last time and lost.

"The team spirit is good but you need more than team spirit to come through Championship and qualifying periods and we need to show that in the qualifying rounds."

Woodgate, who headed Tottenham's winning goal in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley, admits that breaking into the England team is particularly difficult at the moment with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand firmly established as Capello's first-choice pairing.

"It's never been easy getting into the national side, especially with John and Rio," admitted Woodgate.

"Before that there was Sol Campbell. My injuries have not helped me before. It's an uphill task but everyone likes a challenge. You never say never, do you? You always try as much as you can. All you can do at this level is try and try and try. And if the manager keeps picking you, you never know. The lads are two fantastic players and are captain and vice-captain."

Despite Tottenham's poor start to the Premier League - Sunday's draw at Chelsea was their first point from three games - and the departures of both top strikers, Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, Woodgate is confident the club can still mount a challenge for the top four.

"I'm sure we can catch the rest of the top four," he said. "If we sell guys like Keane and Berbatov then we will buy top players to replace them."

However, the central defender, who will have Vedran Corluka as competition following Monday's transfer, believes the arrival of Russian striker Ramon Payluchenko can be a timely boost to everyone at the Lane.

"Payluchenko is a top player," said Woodgate. "I watched him in the Euros and he was excellent so he will be a great signing for this club. He'll bring a lot of goals. He's good in the air and with his feet."

And after playing against Chelsea on Sunday Woodgate feels the Blues will be team everyone has to beat this season. "I think Chelsea will win the league this time," he said.

"They've got the bit between their teeth. They've missed out in the last two seasons but I think they'll do it this year."

pat.mooney@hamhigh.co.uk

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