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Crouch hits brace

LONDON, October 15 – Ever since Peter Crouch embarked on his comical robot goal celebration three years ago, the England striker has been regarded more as a figure of fun than a serious contributor to his country's cause.PETER_CROUCH_POINT_But the towering Tottenham star believes he has made a convincing case to be England’s target man in next year’s World Cup after he continued his impressive international goal-scoring record against Belarus at Wembley on Wednesday.

Crouch struck twice into the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win to take his England goal tally to 18 in 35 appearances, with 16 of those coming in 17 starts.

Aston Villa forward Emile Heskey remains Wayne Rooney’s preferred partner but the muscular forward has fallen out of favour with Villa boss Martin O’Neill and Crouch’s claims may be hard for boss Fabio Capello to ignore.

"It was very enjoyable. It is good to finish the qualifying campaign on a winning note at Wembley and take that into the World Cup. For me personally I was pleased to get a couple of goals," Crouch said.

"Have I given the manager a bit of food for thought? Yes. All I can do when given an opportunity is to try to take it and the goals help and hopefully my performance has given him something to think about.

"In the qualifying campaign the team has done fantastically well and Emile has played the majority of those games.

"But when called upon I have to make sure I do as well as I can and a couple of goals definitely helps.

"I feel confident. When I do play I don’t feel I’ve ever let anyone down. I’ve come in and I’ve scored goals and hopefully I will continue to do that.

"I wouldn’t argue with the manager. I would prefer to be Plan A but it’s one of those things. All I can do is give him something to think about."

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Crouch could be on the verge of becoming an unlikely key figure in England’s bid to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

It would also go some way to erasing the memory of his arm-jerking dance celebration after scoring in a pre-World Cup friendly against Hungary in 2006 – a bizarre routine apparently prompted by his dancing at a party hosted by David Beckham.

Although that remains his most memorable contribution to England’s cause, he has proved a much more prolific striker than Heskey and has far more experience than Carlton Cole – his other main rival for the role of the battering ram that allows Rooney’s more subtle skills to shine.

With Michael Owen seemingly destined to remain in exile, Crouch’s international strike-rate of a goal every two games makes him look more valuable than ever.

Most of those goals have come against minnows like Andorra, Estonia, Trinidad and Tobago and Macedonia, but his uncanny ability to find the net for England could prove vital in South Africa.

He was at it again against Belarus on his first England start since June.

In the fourth minute, Gabriel Agbonlahor slipped a low cross towards Crouch, who stretched his long legs to prod home ahead of Sergei Sosnovsky.

Crouch was a constant problem for the Belarus defence with his height and hold-up play. He claimed his second goal in the 76th minute with another close-range effort after Yury Zhevnov spilled Cole’s shot.

Heskey, watching from the stands after not even being named among the substitutes, has already admitted he may leave Villa to avoid any more damage to his World Cup hopes. Even that might not be enough if Crouch has his way.

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