On a day where two of the Premier League’s brightest and most popular stars succumbed to various knacks and knocks and subsequently exit the World Cup, another of the league’s most popular athletes ascends into the captaincy of the England National team feeling strangely like some hand me down jacket worn by your older brother. Realistically, Gerrard will be Capello’s third choice after the off the field exploits of John Terry and most recently because of Rio Ferdinand’s naggled knee.
I’d argue, like the USA’s temporary loss of striker Jozy Altidore, that the loss of Rio Ferdinand won’t place England too many pegs down the potential World Cup winning pole as the once great defender has struggled with fitness and form on and off for the entire year for England and more detrimentally to Manchester United. Was Ferdinand really to miss all those games for club and country and somehow miraculously return to his best from in time to lift the World Cup?
Many will say Ferdinand’s pace at the back is what England will miss most as opposed to his leadership as captain, and although I don’t whole-heartedly disagree with that ideal, Ferdinand has not been the rock in central defense that once heard the words “best defender in the world” uttered not so long ago. England are a team that have traditionally always defended well. A loss of Ashley Cole and his ability to overlap the left sided midfielder and support attacks would have hurt England more than Rio’s exit.
Still, an injury is in injury and a loss is a loss. The national team is sending their captain home before a ball is kicked in anger as an already nail biting and obsessed nation slump their shoulders again, this time the weekend before the opening round clash with the US.
So who will partner John Terry in the center? The aging and slowing Jamie Carragher? The unreliable Ledley King and his knee? Or the still somewhat inexperienced Matthew Upson or Michael Dawson? Likely, Capello will pick King as long as he can play. He’s favored him in the past, and although he didn’t impress v Mexico, King has the class and talent to overcome the pain he plays with while his partner with club Michael Dawson waits in the wings. Matthew Upson has also performed well for England during qualification when King, Carragher and Dawson were unavailable. England have other choices to pair with John Terry that can get the job done, the sky in fact has not started to fall. At least not yet.
When Steven Gerrard places the captain’s arm band on and runs out against the States, it’ll be painfully clear to England fans that the loss of Ferdinand won’t hinder their chances of lifting the trophy. The 2010 World Cup was always going to be won or lost on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – England’s three best players and the ones most likely to score goals. The title won’t come down to one defender, captain or not. Progression in South Africa will depend on England’s ability to retain possession in midfield and find Wayne Rooney to score or make plays regardless of his positioning. The defending of England’s goal is still in capable hands as is their ability to win matches and go far because of their real star, Fabio Capello.