The World Cup Countdown: Defoe's hopeful phone call

[BRAZIL 2014] Most MLS stars know their status for the World Cup: in or out. Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe finds himself on the bubble though he took a call from the England training staff on Friday that he interpreted as good news.

"They're watching," Defoe told reporters. "I spoke to the physio this morning. He called me up and said, 'How are you feeling, is everything 100 percent?' I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'Good, because [England manager] Roy Hodgson wants the physios to phone all the players that potentially could be in the 23-man squad. He's got a list of 30.'"

Hodgson said earlier this year Defoe's move to MLS wouldn't affect his chances of going to Brazil. But after missing three games with a hamstring injury, Defoe only returned to MLS action last weekend. He did score in Toronto FC's 2-1 win over Vancouver in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday. (TFC is off this weekend.)

English pundits are mixed in their evaluation of Defoe's prospects. Harry Winter of the Telegraph included Defoe in his projected 23, but Glenn Moore of the Independent picked Jordon Henderson of Liverpool over Defoe as the 23rd and final player in the England squad as cover for the Arsenal pair, Jack Wilshire and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who both have fitness concerns.

World Cup 2014: Warmup Schedule

Mark the date: May 30

Fan Appreciation Day will be held in New York City two days ahead of the USA-Turkey friendly across the Hudson River in Harrison, N.J. Members of the U.S. national team will kick off the day with an appearance on Good Morning America in Central Park, where they will unveil a crowd-sourced Tifo display. Players and staff will be on hand at Fan Fest at Times Square beginning at 1 p.m. In the evening, a ticket-only Men in Blazers event featuring players from the 1994 and current national teams will take place at The Town Hall.

World Cup 2014 Squads:
Group A: Brazil (23) | Mexico (23)
Group E: Honduras (23)
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina (24) | Iran (28) | Nigeria (30)
Group G: Germany (30)
Group H: South Korea (23)

Droughts, El Nino and dengue fever ...

If you believe various reports, the World Cup will be plagued by all sorts of natural catastrophes. It is fact that Sao Paulo has been hit by the worst drought since 1930, and Brazil's largest city is facing "imminent water rationing." The threat of El Nino-type conditions could produce extremely dry and sunny weather in June and July in the Southeast. For fans headed to the Northeast --  Fortaleza, Salvador and Natal -- BBC reported the danger will be a spike in dengue fever -- a disease carried by mosquitoes for which there is no vaccine.

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