Bradley Lowery led out the England team against Lithuania

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Gareth Southgate has offered Jermain Defoe hope of featuring for England at the 2018 World Cup if he maintains his form in the Premier League after the striker marked his return after three and a half years in the global wilderness with the first goal in the defeat of Lithuania.

England now top Group F, having won three and drawn one of their four qualifying matches so far as they bid to reach Russian Federation 2018 under Gareth Southgate, Hodgson's successor.

England's leading worldwide goalscorer would relish an emotional send-off in the style of Lukas Podolski, who scored Germany's victor against Southgate's side in what was his farewell match before retiring.

Bradley Lowery, the five-year-old who is bravely fighting a rare form of cancer, was given the honour of leading out England at Wembley with his favourite player, Jermain Defoe.

Just last summer, England showed how much they were missing that spark of creativity when they were bundled out of the Euro 2016, scoring just four goals in four games in a miserable tournament. Indeed, in the last two matches when Sterling has been rested - Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup and Stoke City in the Premier League - Guardiola's team have not scored, the only two times it has happened this year. "I don't know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity". "He wants to be in the six-yard box and feed off scraps at times and you need these type of players".

England resume their World Cup qualifying campaign when they host Lithuania.

"It's nice to score but just to win the game was important and we did that", Defoe told ITV. You can imagine how I felt doing that having done it with my club as well.

He's committed his future at Man United until the end of the season with Jose Mourinho claiming his best football is still in front of him. "So that was the decision I took", added Southgate. So for him to come in is a real positive for us.

To be playing with him for England is quite surreal, it is the Jermain Defoe of old.

"He is all about goals but I think his link-up play at times was superb". To be back playing with the lads was special. I had to keep my emotions in check.

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