Rio Ferdinand is rated doubtful for England’s World Cup qualifier with Croatia and the doubters will start to question whether his position in the heart of the defence might be in doubt.
The Manchester United centre-back will be sidelined for at least two weeks having picked up a thigh injury, which kept him out of his club’s Premier League opener against Birmingham.
Ferdinand’s latest injury comes off the back of a shaky performance in England’s 2-2 draw with Holland, in which his poor back-pass led to Dirk Kuyt’s opening goal.
The 30-year-old will undergo a scan to gauge the full extent of the problem, but Fabio Capello will want him to have some Premier League action under his belt before that visit of Croatia to Wembley on September 9.
If he is not able to do that, then it is a safe bet the Three Lions coach will decide to look elsewhere for a partner for skipper John Terry.
Many would argue that Ferdinand, if fit, would still be a first-choice partner for the Chelsea man, but the pressure has been put on the United star to maintain a top level of performance.
West Ham’s Matthew Upson looks the most likely man to push Ferdinand for that central defensive berth, while Tottenham’s Jonathan Woodgate, Aston Villa’s Curtis Davies, Everton pair Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka and Bolton’s Gary Cahill all harbour hopes of making it on the plane to South Africa.
Upson has certainly impressed when handed his chance in the national team, ending on the winning side in 13 of his 15 caps – in fact the former Arsenal and Birmingham man has not lost a competitive game with the Three Lions.
The 30-year-old is still the subject of speculation over his club future, which Capello will hope won’t have a detrimental impact on his good recent form as England look to cement their place as one of favourites to lift the trophy next July.