Capello can overcome latest setback
The news of Rio Ferdinand's absence from the World Cup is a considerable blow to Fabio Capello's plans - but not one that the Italian cannot overcome.
Typical of England's misfortune in 2010, Capello was only afforded a couple of hours in which to delight in the sight of a fit Gareth Barry participating in full training at the Royal Bafokeng sports complex in Rustenberg, a view he has craved for the past four weeks.
But the former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach returned to earth with a thump as he witnessed his captain injure his knee in a clash with Emile Heskey, just a couple of hours later.
Capello learned long ago not to look beyond each day, let alone each match, so for England the implications of Ferdinand's injury can be seen as more temporary than terminal.
The England captain was coming into his fourth World Cup on the back of an injury savaged season for Manchester United, light years away from reaching the form that saw him gain worldwide respect for his performances during the 2002 World Cup.
The defensive partnership Ferdinand formed with Nemanja Vidic over recent seasons at United has been one of the best the Premier League has ever seen, despite the often under-appreciated partnership of Jonny Evans and Vidic playing the majority of United's incredible run of defensive solidity during the 2008-9 season. Unfortunately for England, Ferdinand's displays for England have been less convincing.
In terms of the captaincy, Steven Gerrard will take the armband with Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard in the running to gain promotion to vice captain. Capello is believed to hold personal doubts over Gerrard's suitability for the captaincy but Gerrard will now be expected to step forward and lead from the front and inspire England as he does Liverpool. However, with a hole in the centre of his defence, Capello will be more immediately concerned by who partners John Terry against the USA on June 12.
Jamie Carragher and Matthew Upson are both solid centre backs, and Upson was dependable when called upon in the qualifiers, with England winning the five games in which he featured. But Ledley King will surely get the nod after impressing Capello with a string of fine performances in Tottenham's chase for the Champions League.
Indeed King, when fit, has been one of the most consistent defenders in the Premier League for many seasons and given that the vocal, obstinate John Terry is not dissimilar to Michael Dawson in style, King looks a decent fit for Terry. But should Capello decide not to risk King, a risk not necessarily greater than the one he would have taken in playing Ferdinand, the Italian can revert to the tried and tested partnership of Terry and Upson.
Given that Ferdinand only managed 13 domestic appearances last season, his absence is a long way from catastrophic and King, relatively fit in comparison, has the speed and perception to finally prove himself on the world stage. Indeed, since Euro 2004, England have won 67% of their games with Rio Ferdinand playing and 68% without. Narrow margins indeed.
But for a coach as meticulous and painstakingly prepared as Fabio Capello, England fans can be confident that the Italian will have already thought through what to do should Ferdinand's fitness or form faltered in the opening game.
Now, we will see if that Plan B is good enough.