Rio Ferdinand fears England may suffer first-round heartache at the World Cup and claims they would be a stronger side with the "under-appreciated" Michael Carrick involved.
England boss Roy Hodgson left Manchester United midfielder Carrick out of his squad for Brazil, with Jordan Henderson chosen ahead of the former Tottenham man for the deep-lying role after an impressive season with Liverpool.
While Liverpool pushed for the Premier League title, United suffered in their first season since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager, and Ferdinand suspects their seventh-placed finish probably cost Carrick his place in England's summer plans.
"He's been under-appreciated in an England shirt and never had the respect he deserves. He's the best holding midfielder England have. He knows the role," Ferdinand told the Mail on Sunday.
David Moyes was ditched by United towards the end of the campaign, and Ferdinand said: "You have to give Moyes some credit for his efforts but it was a tough year - and ultimately Carrick paid. I hope England don't suffer now, too."
Roy Hodgson's standby list
Roy Hodgson's standby list
1/7 John Ruddy - Goalkeeper
Current whereabouts: The goalkeeper is back in Norwich, training hard by the sounds of things. Admitted not being picked in the original squad was a "bitter pill to swallow". With three 'keepers already on the place, it would be a big surprise to see him in Brazil.
2/7 Jon Flanagan - Defender
Current whereabouts: In Miami with the England squad. Made his full debut against Ecuador last night, and his versatility could see him get the nod from Hodgson if Oxlade-Chamberlain is ruled out.
3/7 John Stones - Centre-back
Current whereabouts: Also in Miami training with the first team. Came off the bench to play against Ecuador last night after making his debut against Peru the Friday before. Will only get the call if a centre-back suffers an injury.
4/7 Michael Carrick - Midfielder
Current whereabouts: Relaxing in Ibiza with his wife Lisa. Has a good shot of replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain if Hodgson makes the call.
5/7 Tom Cleverley - Midfielder
Current whereabouts: Unknown. Little has been seen or heard from Manchester United's much-maligned midfielder since the end of the season. Certainly an option for Hodgson if Oxlade-Chamberlain does not make it.
6/7 Andy Carroll – Striker
Current whereabouts: Unitil recently was in Dubai with his girlfriend, Towie's Billi Mucklow, although he did say he would rather be in Brazil. Snapped doing a beach yoga session so he's ready to go...
7/7 Jermain Defoe – Striker
Current whereabouts: In Canada, was part of the Toronto FC side which lost 1-0 at Montreal Impact today. But you knew that already, didn't you?
Ferdinand played for England at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and was due to captain the side in South Africa four years ago but suffered a knee injury shortly before the tournament that ruled him out.
He said: "As a former England captain and big England fan there is nothing I would love more than to see Roy Hodgson's team reach a quarter-final showdown with World Cup hosts Brazil."
Ferdinand added: "But if I was a betting man I would not risk money on England getting out of Group D, let alone making it within sight of the semi-finals."
England tackle Italy in their Group D opening game next Saturday, before taking on Uruguay, who are expected to be tough opponents in their home continent, and Costa Rica.
"I'm not damning their chances completely," Ferdinand said. "But let's have a bit of realism and accept that there are three teams in the section who have a shot at progressing, and three into two doesn't go."