Football: Ferdinand poised for England

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The Independent Online
Rio Ferdinand is expected to be included in Glenn Hoddle's first England squad of the season when he announces today his party to play Moldova on 10 September.

The 18-year-old West Ham defender is seen as the leading candidate for the sweeper role which is a fundamental part of Hoddle's long-term planning.

The England coach had planned to use Jamie Redknapp in the position during Le Tournoi de France, but the Liverpool midfielder missed the summer tournament through injury and is yet to recover.

Ferdinand has previously trained with the full squad under both Terry Venables and Hoddle and has not looked out of place.

His chances of a debut are improved as the Moldova match is likely to be irrelevant in the final World Cup standings (assuming England win) and because Hoddle is without four established central defenders in Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce, Sol Campbell and Martin Keown.

Those injuries could also bring a call-up to Steve Watson, who again impressed in defence during Newcastle's European Cup win in Zagreb on Wednesday. Watson, who has represented England at most junior levels, can also play at rightback. He faces competition from John Scales and Rob Jones.

Hoddle is expected to recall Liverpool's Steve McManaman, who controversially missed Le Tournoi with injury, as well as Les Ferdinand. Robbie Fowler may not yet be ready. Other players under consideration after impressive starts to the season are the Blackburn pair of Chris Sutton and Jason Wilcox.

Attilio Lombardo and Stefano Eranio, summer signings for Crystal Palace and Derby County respectively, have been named in the Italian squad for next month's World Cup qualifier in Georgia. The full squad will be announced next week, but the Italian Football Federation notified expatriate players in the party yesterday. The others are Roberto di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea), Fabrizio Ravanelli (Middlesbrough), Christian Panucci (Real Madrid) and Christian Vieri (Atletico Madrid).

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