Captaincy headache for Capello
Rustenburg - Fabio Capello will spend the next 24 hours contemplating how to fortify his defence after Rio Ferdinand was struck by the curse of England's World Cup captains.
Fabio Capello (AFP)
Capello and company had been in South Africa for only a day when Ferdinand suffered ligament damage to his left knee in the final minutes of the squad's second training session at their Rustenburg base.
It was a hammer blow to Capello as the England coach saw his skipper limp out of the tournament in the most innocuous circumstances following a routine challenge.
Yet it is not the first time an England captain has been injured on World Cup duty.
In 1982 Kevin Keegan was limited to only a 26-minute cameo due to a back problem and four years later, Bryan Robson was forced out of the tournament in Mexico after injuring a shoulder in his country's second group game.
Robson fared little better at Italia '90 as an Achilles injury left him languishing on the sidelines.
David Beckham at least took part in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but he suffered injuries in both tournaments that restricted his performances.
Now, with England's World Cup opener against the United States a week away, Ferdinand is the latest captain to give Capello a major headache.
"It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio," Capello said.
"It was an accidental injury in training, but had nothing to do with the pitch."
Capello has called up Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson after initially discarding him when he named his final 23-man squad.
Dawson is unlikely to get much playing time in South Africa, but Capello must now choose between Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson as his new partner for John Terry at the heart of England's defence.
King started alongside Terry in England's recent friendly win over Mexico. But although the Tottenham star marked his first international appearance for three years with a goal, he looked nervous at times and on several occasions he was turned too easily by Mexico's forwards.
He admitted afterwards he had been disappointed with his display. Capello will also have to consider that King is not guaranteed to be able to play every match due to a chronic knee problem that stops him training regularly.
Ferdinand's injury makes Capello's decision to tempt Liverpool veteran Carragher out of international retirement look especially prescient.
But even Carragher has had an inconsistent season for Liverpool.
Upson had featured often for Capello over the last year due to injuries to Terry and Ferdinand, but the West Ham defender has never completely convinced for England.
As if that wasn't enough to occupy his mind, Capello is also uncertain if Gareth Barry will be fit to take up his shielding role in front of England's back-four when they face the United States.
Barry is not in full training yet after an ankle injury, so Capello will be keeping his fingers crossed that Steven Gerrard, his choice to replace Ferdinand as captain, stays away from any training ground tackles for the next week.
Gerrard is certainly up for the challenge of leading England to World Cup glory.
Speaking before Ferdinand's injury he said: "There is still a lot of ambition in myself to go and achieve big things.
"The biggest thing you can do as a player is to win the World Cup so that's the challenge. The hunger is still there.
"The World Cup is the pinnacle for any player. It's a fantastic stage to go and do well on. That's the challenge for me."