Sven: 'I'm not worried about Rio'

England manager confirms faith in Ferdinand - bad news for restored Woodgate

Ferdinand was dropped for the World Cup qualifying game against Austria last month, rec-overing his place only because Sol Campbell pulled a hamstring after an hour's play. But Sven Goran Eriksson's enthus-iasm for him as a footballing centre-half was made clear on Friday when he said: "Rio is one of the best central defenders in the world, maybe the most complete central defender we have in this country. He can do every-thing. Maybe he's not in the best form, which happens to every player. If you take the last World Cup, I think he was the best defender there. And he's still young. So I can't see any reason why he shouldn't reach that level again. I'm not worried about Rio Ferdinand."

Others are, including his club captain, Roy Keane, and possibly Sir Alex Ferguson, and Eriksson admits that United's game against Chelsea this afternoon will be "a good test" for him. Along with Campbell and John Terry, however, Ferdinand is clearly still in the top three among a cluster of players pushing for a place in England's most oversubscribed position. Woodgate's task over the next few months is to prove he is worth the fourth central- defender's berth at the World Cup finals next summer.

Real Madrid have shown great faith in him after he missed the whole of the last season through injury following his expensive transfer from Newcastle. First capped by Kevin Keegan as long ago as 1999, he has played for his country only once since appearing in the three opening games of the 2002-03 season. But being named in the squad for Saturday's friendly against Argentina will provide a further lift for Woodgate, who told the Football Association website: "My England career? There hasn't been one. It hasn't started for me yet. I'm averaging a cap every 18 months! I'd say I'm more like an England fan than a player, because it's been such a long time since I've been involved.

"I did feel a bit on the outside of things last season. I was in the gym every day with the trainer while everyone else was playing. It was a hard time, but I've come through it and now I feel like I'm there and I'm involved."

Eriksson, having declined the opportunity to schedule an extra game on Wednesday week, is expecting full co-operation from the leading club managers in releasing players, so that he can field a first-choice team on Saturday apart from the injured full-backs Gary Neville and Ashley Cole. That will give an interesting insight into his thinking seven months before the first match in Germany. The first decision to make is whether to stick to a midfield anchorman, as used in the 2-1 victory over Poland, when Ledley King performed the role with some distinction.

It is the head coach's preferred system against strong opposition, a category into which Argentina unquestionably fall, and he has bad news for contenders like Scott Parker, Michael Carrick and the injured Owen Hargreaves: "I think Ledley King's the best option we have if we want to play like that. He does everything, is quick and can play football. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can both do it but they are not very keen to, because they both want to to go forward." Doing so at the same time has been a problem in the past, but Eriksson believes that pair can operate successfully against weaker opposition in a flat midfield four, playing in between David Beckham and "maybe" Joe Cole. Note the "maybe", Joe, even after 27 international appearances.

Votes of confidence with a place in the squad will be awarded today to David James, Wayne Bridge and Peter Crouch. James has responded well since being dropped after his wretched performance as a second-half substitute in Denmark, holding his hands up (rather than letting the ball through them). The plan was originally to give Chris Kirkland his international debut at last as a substitute, but he is injured once more. Bridge is fit again, though Eriksson also has West Ham's left-back Paul Konchesky in mind.

The Swede is not affected either by any of the doubts assailing Liverpool supporters - and perhaps the player himself - about Peter Crouch, the non-scoring striker. "I should like to have him in the World Cup squad," Eriksson said. "He's very special. I know he's not a big goalscorer yet but he can give you a lot of other options. He will score goals. Crouch is not the most elegant football player in the world, but against Austria he did a very good job for us. Looking at the Prozone statistics, he covered more ground in that match than any other player."

It remains debatable, however, whether he works any harder, or is even any better in the air, than Charlton's unlucky Darren Bent, who has now reverted back to the Under-21s, along with Kieran Richardson, for their European Championship play-off matches against France.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea