England can survive without Rio
On paper, the loss of injured Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand appears to be a massive blow for England's World Cup hopes.
Not only does Ferdinand, 31, wear the captain's armband, but he is also a guaranteed starter in the centre of defence, alongside John Terry, for England.
But does the absence of Ferdinand, who suffered an injury to his left knee Friday while tackling teammate Emile Heskey during a training session, really hurt England all the much?
I would argue it doesn't.
Had this injury occurred prior to the 2006 World Cup, the story would be different. Four years ago, Ferdinand was on top of his game, rightly heralded as one of the best central defenders in the game. He was a central figure for England, anchoring the back line with his exemplary tackling skills and ability to snuff out danger before it developed.
But times change. Ferdinand is coming off an injury-plagued and error-prone season for Manchester United, and is clearly no longer the stalwart centre-half he once was.
With over 75 caps to his credit, Ferdinand does provide England with valuable experience, but so do Terry and Jamie Carragher, who is back in the national team fold after coming out of international retirement.
Ferdinand's lack of pace would have been badly exposed at a World Cup that many believe will be all about fast football and the counterattack.
Younger legs will be a premium in South Africa, which means Ferdinand's replacement, Michael Dawson (26 years old), considerably softens the blow of the Manchester United star's injury.
And, of course, England has better options in the centre of defence than Ferdinand: the aforementioned Carragher, Ledley King (provided he's overcome his knee problem), and Matthew Upson were all named to Fabio Capello's 23-man roster, and any one of them could easily forge a effective partnership with John Terry.
Now, if it was Wayne Rooney who was ruled out through injury, you could've written off England's chances right away, such is his importance.
But Rio Ferdinand is not indispensable. England can survive without him.
About the Author
John F. Molinaro is a reporter for CBCSports.ca whose chief love is soccer.
John served as senior editor of CBC's 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup website and was the driving force behind our coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. His work on CBC Sports Online's Euro 2004 site earned him a CBC.ca Award of Excellence.
He holds an honours BA in sociology from York University and a print journalism diploma from Sheridan College.