Campbell displaced as prodigal Ferdinand returns

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The Independent Football

The England coach is understood to have indicated to Ferdinand that he would play ahead of Sol Campbell in tomorrow's friendly against Argentina here - a reversal of the situation when Eriksson last had his three top centre-backs fit. For the match against Austria at Old Trafford on 8 October, it was Campbell who partnered John Terry.

The issue of who was regarded as the first-choice defender alongside Terry was clouded slightly by an injury to Campbell which meant that Ferdinand was reinstated for the second game against Poland on 12 October - by which time England had already qualified for next summer's World Cup finals in Germany.

At left-back, Eriksson is also expected to opt for Chelsea's Wayne Bridge, 25, who only recently returned from a broken ankle last month when he played against Charlton in the Carling Cup after nine months out.

A return for Ferdinand at the Stade de Geneve tomorrow would suggest that Eriksson dropped him for the Austria game with the intention of giving the defender a short, sharp shock in order to shake him from the sloppy form that had blighted his performance against Northern Ireland on 7 September.

At the time it was understood that Ferdinand's club form had been part of the reason for Eriksson dropping him. However, the England coach could scarcely argue that there has been an improvement in that area with the 27-year-old struggling to contain Middlesbrough's Yakubu in the 4-1 defeat at the Riverside for United on 29 October.

A more likely reason for his return is that Eriksson believes Ferdinand offers something that neither Terry nor Campbell gives the team. While those two are reliable tacklers and winners of the ball in the air, Ferdinand's main strengths come from his ease in possession and pace against the quickest strikers.

The return of Ferdinand will come as a severe blow to Campbell who must now feel that replacing Terry represents his best chance of making the team for next summer's World Cup.

The fitness of Ledley King is still an issue for the England manager as he decides which midfield formation to play against Jose Pekerman's Argentina side. The Tottenham captain came through a full training session in Manchester yesterday before the team flew out to Switzerland in the evening but if he is not passed fit for tomorrow Eriksson could return to a flat midfield four with Joe Cole on the left.

It now seems unlikely that Diego Maradona will be in Geneva to watch his country play against the nation he single-handedly eliminated from the 1986 World Cup. The 45-year-old, who has battled back from drug addiction and obesity to host a remarkably successful chat show on Argentinian television, has turned down an offer to join up with the squad.

He told an Argentinian radio station yesterday that the president of the country's football association, Julio Grondona, had invited him along but he did not wish "to put anybody in the shade". Maradona said: "I want to free Mr Grondona and take this burden away from him because I know that he loves me very much. I don't believe that this is the best time to join the Argentinian team."

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