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Joe Cole struggled to force his way into the Chelsea team after returning in September from an eight-month layoff with a knee injury.

Joe Cole believes his World Cup place shouldn't be under threat if England coach Fabio Capello consults Chelsea's medical records.

"We've done the fitness tests today and I'm the fittest player in the squad," Cole said on Thursday at Chelsea's Cobham training ground. "So I'm fresh and hungry and want to get out there to the World Cup."

On Tuesday morning, Cole's hopes of going to South Africa appeared to be over when he woke up to newspaper headlines asserting that he hadn't been included in the 30-man provisional squad.

But even after a text message arrived on his phone from a Football Association secretary telling him he had made the World Cup squad, the 28-year-old midfielder had done little this season to justify a return to the England fold.

Cole struggled to force his way into the Chelsea team after returning in September from an eight-month layoff with a knee injury.

When he finally made it onto the pitch for the Blues, Capello wasn't impressed with what he saw and demanded he "improves a lot" in the final weeks of the season.

"He is not back like the player I remember," Capello said in February.

Flashes of brilliance

But in the final weeks of the season, as Chelsea claimed the Premier League title, Cole managed to reproduce some of the flashes of brilliance — including a deft goal at Manchester United — that made him stand out as one of England's few star performers at the 2006 World Cup.

"[Capello] knows what I can do — it's hard to play as well as you would like when you are getting 20 minutes here, 30, 45 — it's difficult to show your true quality," Cole said.

"You need to feel that you are confident you are going to play and it can take time to get into the game. I think I've been guilty a bit because of that because of starting and thinking I might be dragged out at any minute. I've probably being trying a bit too hard at times.

"But I think the manager has seen that every time I have played I have applied myself and done well and given something for the team."

Cole's lack of action for Chelsea could be to England's benefit in South Africa.

"For the last six weeks I've felt so fresh. I look round and it's been a long hard season, some of the guys have played 50 games," Cole said. "But I'm fresh and I'm ready to go and raring to go out there ... I've been there and done it at international level and I'm proud of my England career so far.

"I have always performed well at that level."

Cole has made 53 England appearances, but hasn't featured since a 4-1 win at Croatia in September 2008 at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

"I am hungry and passionate about England," Cole said. "Growing up close to Wembley and going as a kid. I've represented England since I was 15 — it's a passion. I don't want to finish my career not having won something important."

Convincing Capello

Cole will have to convince Capello during a training camp in Austria and friendlies against Mexico and Japan to be included in the final 23-man squad on June 1 — and then the World Cup opener against the United States on June 12.

"A year or so ago Joe would have been a certainty," said Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of development and a former England midfielder. "But he's one of those who will have to make an impact in the next two weeks because otherwise he could be one who misses out. So it's an important spell for Joe."