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Joe Strange - World Cup stage set for a King

Published: 07 Jun 2010 - 06:51:51

Is it just me or is nothing ever simple when you're an England fan?

As if the John Terry scandal, Beckham's Achilles and Theo Walcott's shock omission weren't enough, Friday decided to throw-up yet more major stories for the entire nation to debate.

Through the medium of Fabio Capello's ever-engaging press conference came the very welcome news of Gareth Barry's return to training after nearly a month out with an ankle injury.

- World Cup fixtures
- King: I am tough enough

His inclusion in the final 23-man squad gave us a strong indication that he wasn't far from full fitness, but his participation in Friday's morning session still came as a timely boost - particularly with the USA game still just over a week away.

It would have been an almost perfect date with the media had Fabio stopped talking after telling us about Barry. But that would've been far too easy - after all, this is England we're talking about.

Instead, Capello was forced to ruin the positive mood he'd just created by adding some bad news to the good he'd just divulged.

After an innocuous looking challenge with everyone's favourite front-man Emile Heskey, Rio Ferdinand had limped out of training and to a nearby hospital.

Scans later confirmed that Rio had suffered knee ligament damage, ruling him out for up to six weeks.

The England captain's World Cup was over before it had even begun.

For Rio it was a cruel ending to what has, by his own admission, been a season from hell.

With just 12 Premier League appearances to his name last season, Ferdinand has been blighted by a series of injuries since kick-off last August.

Back and calf problems have severely restricted his playing-time, while also making it nearly impossible for him to put together a good run of form - hardly ideal preparation for the biggest and most important tournament in all of football.

The majestic Rio of years gone by was far too rare a sight over the last campaign, having been replaced by a man struggling for fitness and form.

So could Ferdinand's absence actually be a blessing in disguise?

His likely replacement is Ledley King, who started and scored in a recent friendly win over Mexico at Wembley.

While King has his own well-documented injury problems, his performances for Tottenham over the last nine-and-a-half months have been nothing short of extraordinary.

For a man only able to train once or twice a week due to a chronic knee injury, Ledley proved himself to be a truly special player during Spurs' successful chase for Champions League football.

The fact that Capello and his backroom staff were willing to give him a place in the squad despite his injury troubles says a lot for how highly they rate him - and after the season he's just had, who can blame them?

While Rio remains a fantastic player, England will now face the USA with a central defender arguably in the form of his life, rather than one struggling to recapture what he once had.

Add to the mix a defensive partner who's just lifted a league and cup double in the shape of John Terry, and England now have a partnership with the ability, form and confidence to take on any opponent in South Africa.

Bring on Ronaldo, Kaka and Messi - we're ready for them.

JOE STRANGE IS A STAFF WRITER AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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