Capello turns to Plan B – with England's hopes pinned on King

Dawson flies out to join squad as manager blames 'curse' for Ferdinand's knee injury... but at least Barry is back in training

Fabio Capello yesterday lamented the injury "curse" that has afflicted the England team after captain Rio Ferdinand was dramatically ruled out of the World Cup finals with a knee injury sustained in the squad's first training session in South Africa.

Asked how he regarded the latest piece of misfortune after injuries to David Beckham and Gareth Barry, Capello said: "It's the curse of being the captain." He had to sack John Terry in February after the then-England captain was engulfed in the scandal of his alleged affair with former team-mate Wayne Bridge's ex-fiancée.

The latest misfortune to befall the England team took place towards the end of yesterday's training session at their Royal Bafokeng base in Phokeng when Ferdinand challenged Emile Heskey for the ball. As Heskey turned away, Ferdinand's left boot caught in the turf and, when his leg twisted, he sustained damage to his knee ligaments. He will need up to six weeks to recover.

The incident cast a shadow over England's preparations. The player was taken to the local Fernecrest hospital in Rustenburg for an MRI scan which revealed the true extent of the damage. Ferdinand had requested a second opinion which delayed the official Football Association announcement to 6.30pm local time that he was out the tournament but by then players and staff already feared the worse.

Capello admitted that his players had been left "upset" by the incident. Ferdinand cried out in pain as he went to ground and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He came out walking with the help of sticks and is expected to fly back to England today, with replacement Tottenham's Michael Dawson going in the opposite direction.

Ledley King will take Ferdinand's place in the England first XI, although there are obvious concerns about whether he can last a whole tournament. The Spurs man played a full role in training yesterday.

Capello said: "All the players who are here with me are important. But he is one of the starting players, the captain, a leader. But you have to go forward. It couldn't have been much worse on my first day. True. The other players were upset, absolutely upset. They stopped training."

Later when Capello was asked whether he thought the fates were conspiring against him he said that he thought no and joked that his strong Catholic faith would carry him through. "We have to pray," he said, "help us."

The FA and Capello were at pains to point out that the accident was nothing to do with the playing surface of the Royal Bafokeng pitches, which was a concern when the complex was being built. Last night Capello said: "It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio. It was an accidental injury in training, but had nothing to do with the pitch."

The better news for England was that Barry played a full role in training for the first time since damaging his ankle ligaments on 5 May. Capello said: "I spoke with him [Barry] and he says he's really happy. There's no swelling and his confidence is rising. But we go slowly. This is the worst period. If you go too fast, it's really dangerous. I'd prefer he didn't play against the United States [next Saturday] and is fit for the other games."

Beckham also took part in training in his new role as a liaison between players and staff. He wore the same red training sweater and shorts as Capello and his staff rather than the black worn by the 23 members of the squad. Capello said: "He [Beckham] is the liaison between the staff and the players. It's very important that the players have him. He's not a coach, and he's not a player. We have to play against the United States and he knows better some of the players than we do."

For Dawson it was some turnaround after he was cut from the 30-man provisional squad on Tuesday. Like Trevor Sinclair at the 2002 World Cup, rushed out to replace the injured Danny Murphy, the Spurs defender was on the brink of leaving on his holiday when he was called up yesterday.

Dawson, still uncapped by England, said last night: "One minute I'm trying to arrange my holiday, then I get a call asking if I was on holiday because Rio had pulled out of training. I said 'No' and then I was just waiting by the phone before getting a call saying I would be picked up in an hour. It's been a crazy day.

"For Rio to get injured, there would be no worse feeling for him as a player. To miss the biggest tournament in the world as the captain, I feel for him. I missed the Carling Cup Final in 2008, and there was nothing anyone could have said to me that could have made me feel any better. For Rio, the feeling will be the same, but it's a chance for me now."

Case for the defence: Capello's options at centre-half

John Terry

Age 29 Caps 60

With the captain gone extra pressure falls on the broad shoulders of the former captain. Terry may have led Chelsea to their first domestic double but his own form has been erratic in the wake of his much publicised personal problems that forced Capello to strip him of the captaincy in February. Four years ago he was named in the All Star squad after the finals in Germany, but has not cut such a commanding figure over recent months. Nevertheless, he is a certain starter – but who will Capello turn to to partner him in central defence?

Ledley King

Age 29 Caps 20

A fine season for Tottenham prompted Capello to pick him despite his knee problems. Looks certain to take over from Ferdinand, given the Italian is a long-time admirer – but is he able to play in back-to-back games? And if not, would Capello not prefer continuity of selection? He did play three games in nine days at the end of the Premier League season. Scored in the friendly with Mexico but looked uncharacteristically uncertain in his defensive duties.

Matthew Upson

Age 31 Caps 19

Has been an England player for seven years now but has never been considered a first choice. Endured a harrowing club season at the heart of a West Ham defence that was leakier than a BP oil well. Has been a regular squad pick under Capello – and stood in for Ferdinand when the Manchester United defender was sidelined during the qualifying campaign – but over the course of his 19 caps England have not conceded a goal in only three of them.

Jamie Carragher

Age 32 Caps 36

Capello's decision to sweet-talk the Liverpool man out of international retirement appears ever more well-judged with each passing training session. His adaptability, durablity and experience of playing in a finals – he was a regular in 2006 – offers reassurance to the Italian. But does he still have the pace to cope at the highest level?

Michael Dawson

Age 26 Caps 0

Capello's native wariness of taking a gamble on an inexperienced player saw the Tottenham man initially left at home when the 30-man squad was trimmed to 23. He will arrive in South Africa today to rejoin the party in the wake of a fine domestic season, but the manager is unlikely to risk him – unless further injury strikes.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions