Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leon Best hoping for South African dream

Leon Best has been dusting off his old World Cup videos as inspiration for Ireland’s final push for South Africa 2010.

The Coventry City striker’s heroes include, not surprisingly, the likes of Brazil’s Ronaldo whose majestic presence in previous competitions provided the stuff that boyhood dreams are made of.

But that dream is just two games away from becoming a reality for the Sky Blues’ centre-forward who was called up for his country for the first time in June and has been on a high ever since.

Seemingly a firm part of Irish boss Giovani Trapattoni’s plans for the future, Best is playing some of the best football of his young career at the moment, clearly having taken a huge injection of confidence from his international progress.

His most recent run-out came in a friendly against next summer’s competition host nation, South Africa, following up his first cap against Bulgaria.

“It was a great experience and a good win,” said the in-form front man who celebrated his 23rd birthday recently.

“I enjoyed it out there and it is always great to be involved with the squad. I hope to be involved in every single squad and game now. Definitely. I get such a buzz playing in the stadiums and in front of the Irish fans and with the likes of Robbie Keane and John O’Shea.

‘‘I could only dream about it before and now it is happening for me and I need to grasp every chance.

“I thought I gave a good account of myself against South Africa and I was just disappointed that I didn’t get a goal, which is always a good feeling when you go on as a sub against a good team.

‘‘The possession was all South Africa but they didn’t have a shot which goes to show how we did against them. And we can win games. I went on with Caleb Folan up front, which was easy because he is a great target man and that’s different for me because then I am not the one always flicking it. I have to spin off him which I enjoy because I get more chances.

‘‘Hopefully it will help my game because I am playing a different way, so if Coventry ever sign a Dion Dublin again I’ll be running off him rather than being the target man for a change.”

Looking ahead to next month’s crunch qualifiers, he said: “We have got a big game against Italy coming up in October, so hopefully I will be involved in that.

‘‘We have got two more and both are at home, so hopefully we can win those and get to South Africa. The other game is against Montenegro.

“It would be a great achievement getting to the World Cup because it’s the sort of thing you only ever dream of.

‘‘I have got videos at my house of past World Cups so to think that I could be involved in it would be a dream come true.

‘‘I used to watch people like Ronaldo and Romario for Brazil when I was younger so it would be amazing to go to the finals.”

For the time being, however, he wants to keep his form and fitness, and the goals coming for Coventry.

He had scored three in City’s first seven prior to yesterday’s trip to Preston – his best start to a season at the Ricoh Arena.

Enjoying his partnership with Clinton Morrison, who got his fourth of the season in Tuesday night’s gutsy 3-2 victory over Sheffield United, Best said: “We have got a good little competition going and the great thing is that we are both getting some goals at the moment.

“This is my best ever start because in previous years I have always ended up injured just before the season starts or early on in the campaign and that has set me back.

‘‘But I am feeling fit at the minute and just want to keep doing well for my club and see where that gets me with my country.”

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