Duff hopes to erase WC heartache

Duff’s hopes of making his second appearance at a World Cup finals
were dashed in November after Thierry Henry’s now infamous handball
helped France seal a 2-1 aggregate playoff win over the Republic in
Paris. The Cottagers’ winger lashed out at officials for failing to
notice Henry’s foul afterwards, but he admits his bad memories have
been put to the back of his mind, partly due to Fulham’s European
success this year. Roy Hodgson’s side have gone on an incredible
run in the Europa League, accounting for the likes of UEFA Cup
champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus to make the quarter finals,
where they hold a 2-1 lead going into Thursday’s second leg against
Wolfsburg. The Cottagers will set up a semi-final against Hamburg
or Standard Liege should they progress and Duff admits he is
desperate for the Cottagers to end the season by lifting the
trophy. “Will winning the Europa League make up for losing out on
the World Cup? Yes, that and more,” the 31-year-old said. “It has
been an amazing journey, and in a way that night in Paris is a
distant memory now. “We’ve played so many games since then and they
seem to be getting bigger and bigger. To get to a final and win
would be just unbelievable. “When we started out in the summer
nobody would ever have thought we’d get this far so bring it on.” A
thigh injury to Clint Dempsey has left Roy Hodgson short of
attacking options for the game at the Volkswagen Arena but Bobby
Zamora did train on Wednesday evening. However Hodgson, who is
already without Andy Johnson for the rest of the season, is
confident his side will be able to perform even if Zamora does not
play. “We’ve played quite a lot of games without Bobby this season
so I don’t think I had any fears. We needed to prove we could win
without him,” said the 62-year-old. “We’ve been stretched up front
all season. “We lost Andy Johnson in the first week in January, so
that limited us. “Dempsey took a knock against Wigan and he could
be out for some time. “That means resources are even more stretched
than they have been but Gera has partnered Bobby up front and
together they’ve done a very good job for the team.” Fulham were in
control for the majority of last week’s first leg at Craven Cottage
and they should have gone 3-0 up before Alexander Madlung scored
what could turn out to be a vital away goal for Wolfsburg. Tomorrow
night’s clash in Lower Saxony will be the Cottagers’ 54th match of
a long season which began with a win over Lithuanian minnows Vetra
in July. Hodgson’s side have complained of tiredness, but he is
adamant that both he and his players will not be suffering from
fatigue tomorrow. “These sort of games fire you up even more and
they remind you why you still want to be involved at the very top
level,” said Hodgson, who took Inter Milan to the UEFA Cup final in
1997. “We’ve had some great games in the Europa League, we’ll have
another one tomorrow night and another one (against Liverpool in
the Premier League) at Anfield on Sunday.”