Fabulous Franco

Guillermo Franco can lead the line for West Ham United in the absence of the injured Carlton Cole, manager Gianfranco Zola has insisted.

The Mexico striker has been in superb form in recent weeks, scoring three times in his last five Barclays Premier League matches while holding the ball up and linking with skill and guile.

Zola has been impressed with the 33-year-old's play since his free transfer from Villarreal in September, as well as his never-say-die attitude. His efforts to lift those around him in difficult moments has also not gone unnoticed.

With Mexico placed in Group A alongside South Africa, Uruguay and France in Friday's 2010 FIFA World Cup draw, Franco has the added incentive of cementing his spot in Javier Aguirre's squad to work towards.

"I think what Guillermo Franco is doing now is already enough," said Zola, when asked if the striker needed to step up while Cole is out of action.

"He just needs to do what he's doing, no more than that. If he wants to give something more, he is welcome, but I am happy with him.

"We will have to find other solutions. I see it as an opportunity to find other ways to keep the goals coming.

"I knew he was a good player but I didn't expect him to be this good. I think a lot of that comes down to his character. He's playing with passion and really loves what he's doing over here. He's also got the World Cup coming and that's another boost for him.

"He's a good player, very intelligent and the thing that has impressed me the post is the determination and passion he has brought into the game."