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.”