Monday, 24 May, 2010
England captain is ready to put an injury-plagued season behind him.
England captain Rio Ferdinand insists he is fit and raring to go as he prepares to lead out the Three Lions against Mexico today (Monday) and believes Fabio Capello's squad has what it takes to make a real impact at the World Cup.
The Three Lions will be given a heroes' farewell at Wembley, just 18 days before the opening match in South Africa, and the good news is that Rio and Co are already fit and focused.
Ferdinand may have endured one or two injury problems during the season with Manchester United but he says he will go into England’s penultimate game before the World Cup in tip-top condition.
Ferdinand, speaking at England’s pre-tournament training camp in Austria, said: “I am good. I have been training the last couple of weeks really well. I have missed three games since February and have been training really well since then.
“Last week we had a week off and I trained while I was on holiday with my family and I have been training really well since I have been here. Fingers crossed, everyone will be fit and raring to go for the World Cup.”
Ferdinand believes that far from hampering his performances at the World Cup recent injuries could even give him an advantage when he finally arrives in South Africa.
He added: “I am used to playing 40 or 50 games a season. This season I have played 21. It has been well short of what I am used to. Hopefully that means I will be much fresher going into the tournament.”
Rio, who also represented his country in the World Cup Finals of 1998, 2002 and 2006, will go into the 2010 tournament as England’s captain, having taken over the armband from John Terry. And the defender admits that makes him very proud indeed, especially with hopes so high as England head for South Africa with a squad packed full of experience and quality.
“It is a fantastic honour and a responsibility that I warm to,” he said.
"It’s a good atmosphere with this squad, a great bunch of lads, and a lot of us have been together quite a few years now – not just the last two years of the qualifying campaign. Quite a few of us have been together for a few years and been through a lot of different experiences. Now it’s about pulling us all together and getting that winning mentality, that tournament mentality.
"This will be my fourth World Cup, although I didn't play in the one in 1998, and I think this is the most experienced squad we’ve had in terms of what level a lot of the players have played at.
"A lot of the players have played Champions League football for the last five years, getting to the latter stages most years – and if not Champions League then Uefa Cup games – and also playing a lot of England games. It's very important."
The combination of Ferdinand’s friendly, laid-back style as captain and manager Capello’s famed discipline could prove to be a good one for England both on and off the pitch, although anyone who has seen Rio in action will tell you he is also fiercely competitive and intensely professional.
“Maybe opposites attract,” mused Rio when asked about the difference in outward style between manager and captain.
"But for all that is said about the manager being hard-line in the way he approaches things, he has still got an approachable side. There are times when he has a little laugh, before training or around the hotel. But the way we want it is the way he is. When it is time to work, it is hard. It is not time to mess around. That bodes well for the squad."
If England are to achieve their goals in South Africa then the hard work begins at Wembley today, and there is long road ahead. So don't ask Rio to start daydreaming about lifting the World Cup just yet.
"If we win as an England team then you can enjoy it," he insisted. "There is no point me enjoying it or sitting on it and thinking about all the scenarios that can happen when you have not won it. As a kid I allowed myself to daydream and then we wouldn’t get to the Final. As a superstition I don’t want to do that.
"In this period there is no time for small talk. It’s about business and we have a lot of work to do before we go away if we are going to be successful."