Captain embraces new mood of low-key realism

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The Independent Online

It is his fourth World Cup finals and, as captain this time, Rio Ferdinand said that for once this England team will not be travelling to the tournament with an over-inflated opinion of themselves after coming up short on the last three occasions.

Ferdinand, who was a squad member in 1998 and a regular in both 2002 and 2006, said that England teams had been seduced by their own publicity in the last few World Cup finals. He said: "When we beat Jamaica 6-1 at Old Trafford before the last tournament it was almost like it created a false sense of security really. It papered over the cracks of what we needed to work on back then. With this manager we will be working on the minor details that end up being important things and that is the difference between being champions and also-rans.

"It [the realism] comes from the manager but also the players as well. A lot of us have been to a few tournaments now. Wayne is 24 and been to three tournaments. We have a lot of players who are experienced and have played to a high level in Europe and know what it takes to win. So why would we be getting carried away with ourselves? We don't do it at our clubs, so why would we do it here?"

Ferdinand said that the problems with his back which have curtailed his season with Manchester United and required injections to stiffen the ligaments around his spine had not deterred him from believing that he could yet appear at a fifth World Cup finals.

He said: "I would like to think I have a good few years left in me, but you have to listen to your body really and each year you have to re-evaluate and go from there. Of course it has been frustrating. I like playing and I am used to playing 40-50 games a season so to be playing 20 or whatever feels like a non-event really. You feel like you don't get started, it's been stop-start but it is a learning curve. You can't have it great all the way through your career. A few negative situations pop up and you have to deal with them.

"It is definitely about not coming home with any regrets. I think there have been too many times in the past in tournaments when that's been the case. I have been to four of them and I think there has been an element of regret each time. I don't want to finish my England career – I hear people are saying this is my last tournament – like that. I don't want it to end on that note."