Ferdinand ordered to shape up by Capello

Error-prone defender keeps place against Belarus but is told to raise his game
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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello revealed yesterday that he has told Rio Ferdinand he will not tolerate any more sloppy defending after his mistake in Ukraine on Saturday and the player has been left in no doubt of the high standards the England manager expects.

Ferdinand retains his place for tonight's final World Cup qualifier against Belarus at Wembley in an experimental side that will include Ben Foster in goal. As revealed in The Independent yesterday, Peter Crouch and Gabriel Agbonlahor will lead the attack. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon will be on the wings.

Capello is to make sweeping changes as Steven Gerrard returned to Liverpool yesterday after aggravating a groin injury in training, joining Wayne Rooney, who has a calf strain, and David James (knee) on the sidelines.

Capello made it clear yesterday that Ferdinand will start tonight, despite his unforced error in Saturday's 1-0 defeat in Dnipropetrovsk that led to a red card for England goalkeeper Robert Green. It followed a shocking piece of defending against the Netherlands in August when he gifted Dirk Kuyt a goal in a 2-2 draw, and another inexplicable mistake in last month's Manchester derby.

Ferdinand, 30, has been told he cannot afford another lapse in concentration. Capello spoke privately with the Manchester United defender on Monday and again yesterday about his performance in Ukraine. Ferdinand is due for another pep talk today.

Capello said yesterday: "I spoke with him on Monday and this morning. I will speak on the day of the game. I asked him about what happened. I spoke with him about the moment, different things. He is a good man, a big man, an important player for England and United. He needs to play [against Belarus]. The experience of Rio will be very important for us. I have big confidence in him."

The England captain, John Terry, who will partner Ferdinand in the centre of defence, backed his team-mate to respond positively to Capello's inquisition. Terry said: "Rio can cope with that. He's a big player, a big personality, and he can put things right. It is important we all get behind players because we all make mistakes. Rio has made mistakes before like we all have. It is how the big players deal with them and he can't wait to put things right."

Gerrard limped out of training yesterday but Capello was confident he would be back for Liverpool's trip to Sunderland on Saturday. "We spoke after the game against Ukraine and he thought he'd be fit, perhaps for this game," the manager said. "He practised with us but, after 10 minutes, he felt it. It's not a big problem. He'll be fit in two or three days, for Saturday when Liverpool play. It is not a big problem."

Ferdinand's Manchester United team-mate Foster, who has also made a number of high-profile mistakes this season, is to return in goal, despite not featuring in the original squad because he was suffering from a chest injury. Foster was called into the England party following Green's red card and subsequent ban at the weekend, and is set to make only his second start for his country, the first being the 1-0 defeat to Spain at Old Trafford in February 2007.

James missed training yesterday with a sore knee and is to sit out what would have been his 50th cap. Birmingham's on-loan goalkeeper Joe Hart is likely to be on the bench.

The recall for Foster comes after his England credentials have been questioned following high-profile errors for United against Manchester City, Sunderland and Chelsea. This could well be his last chance to stake a claim for a World Cup place as Edwin van der Sar has returned to full fitness and is likely to become the first-choice keeper at Old Trafford again.

In the absence of Rooney, Capello is to drop Emile Heskey and pick a front two of Crouch and Agbonlahor. Crouch has scored in his last two games for England; Agbonlahor will be making his competitive debut a day after his 23rd birthday.

The Italian said he would also change England's tactics to ensure they have greater options in South Africa next summer. "We won't always play the same style," he said. "We need to play other styles, style A, B, C. It depends on the opposition and the style of the game we need to play. We need to practise other styles. I want to see some players in different formations."

One option that Capello is keen to explore is attacking with pace down the flanks, which will see Wright-Phillips operating tonight on the right and Lennon on the left. Gareth Barry is set to return in midfield, in place of Michael Carrick who did not look impressive in Ukraine on Saturday.

Capello has invited to the match all 55 players who have been involved in England squads since the Italian took over as England manager at the start of last year.

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