England striker Jermain Defoe believes the weight of World Cup expectation took its toll on the squad in South Africa, but insists the players remain behind under-pressure manager Fabio Capello.
The Tottenham frontman and his international colleagues have been widely criticised after Sunday’s 4-1 humbling by Germany sealed their last-16 exit from the tournament.
Defoe remains at a loss to explain the poor showing in South Africa but does not think Capello has lost the respect of the players as a result.
The 27-year-old said in the Daily Mirror: “I take the point that it can’t be fatigue as the Germans in particular have played more games than us.
“Maybe it’s because so many players have taken on so much pressure to live up to expectations that it affected their normal game.
“There was boredom out there. But then players are used to that from being away with their clubs. And that soon went when the games started and we could break up our days by watching them.
“You also have to remember that the strict regime is the way the manager prefers to do things. His CV is second to none and he has won titles and trophies with four top European clubs and some fantastic players that way.
“For me personally, he gave me an opportunity and I’d like to think that I took it in that Slovenia game.
“Every manager has their own different routine before a game. With Mr Capello we’d watch a video of the opposition and we’d go through their strengths and weaknesses.
“And I’d like to think, despite what is being said, that he has the respect of the players.”
Defoe, whose winning goal against Slovenia ensured Capello’s side progressed from the group stage, also hit back at suggestions the players do not care about playing for their country.
He said: “I can understand the level of anger and frustration that we as England players have returned home to.
“I accept it has been a bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign from a group of players of whom everyone expected so much.
“Personally I wish I could have done more to help the country than just the goal against Slovenia.
“I remain convinced that had I played in the earlier two games we would have got off to a better start than we did.
“And that’s why it hurts so much to hear people saying we don’t care.
“I care. I care passionately. I won’t have anyone telling me I don’t have pride in pulling on an England shirt. Pride in scoring goals for my country. Pride in representing my family, my club and the people that have had faith in me all my life.”