Wayne Bridge has been warned by the Fabio Capello camp that if he does not turn up for England's friendly against Egypt next month because of the John Terry scandal then he will be left out of the World Cup squad – despite the latest injury to Ashley Cole.
Capello was hit with his first major pre-World Cup injury crisis yesterday when Cole was ruled out for up to four months with a fractured ankle, which puts his participation in the June tournament in real danger. The 29-year-old will struggle to be fit in time for the announcement of the squad in late May, a severe blow for the England manager.
It puts even more pressure on the second-choice left-back Bridge not to quit international football, in spite of his anger at Terry's alleged affair with his ex-fiancée Vanessa Perroncel. The Capello camp has said in private that it considers the matter closed now that Terry has been stripped of the captaincy and it expects Bridge to join up with the squad as usual for the friendly next month.
Should Bridge decide that he cannot face sharing the same hotel and dressing room as his former friend Terry then Capello will bring the curtain down on the player's international career. With only one friendly before the squad has to be named, he has no intention of giving the Manchester City left-back the game off on 3 March.
As for Bridge, he has not made up his mind yet what he intends to do with his international career. The injury to Cole will certainly change his thinking; it has at last given him the chance to step out from the shadow of the man who took his place in the Chelsea team.
Capello has not spoken to Bridge since the scandal broke and he has no intention of doing so. Barring injury, it would now seem inevitable that Bridge, 29, will be selected in the squad for the Egypt game that will be announced on 27 February. Awkward will not do justice to the scene when Terry and Bridge walk out in front of the television cameras at Arsenal's London Colney training ground for the first time.
Of Cole's injury, Capello said last night: "It's bad news for me because he (Cole) is a very important player. As a left back he is really, really good because he can go forward and defend. He's dangerous. I hope this problem will not be so bad."
Carlo Ancelotti said he still hoped Cole would play this season. He said: "We are disappointed because Ashley Cole is a very important player for us. He has a problem with his ankle and we hope he will be ready for the World Cup. Maybe he will be out for three months. We hope he will be ready for [Chelsea] for the end of the season."
Cole, who has 77 caps, more than Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, broke his ankle in a challenge with Landon Donovan in the defeat by Everton on Wednesday night. Donovan will captain the United States against England in their first World Cup group game.
A scan yesterday revealed the extent of the damage to Cole. Other choices at left-back are Leighton Baines at Everton, who has performed impressively this season, and Stephen Warnock, of Aston Villa, who is currently injured. James Milner and Joleon Lescott can also play there.
The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, said yesterday that Terry would have been applauded in some countries rather than sacked as national team captain for having an affair. Blatter, in Vancouver for the International Olympic Committee's session, said that in "Latin" countries such as France, Italy and Spain, Terry's conduct might not have been considered a problem."