The Manchester United centre back injured his knee during England’s first training session in South Africa on Friday. But he has decided to “stay on and help” as England prepare for tomorrow’s friendly against local side Platinum Stars at the nearby RoyalBafokeng Stadium.
My man in the camp says: "Rio’s devastated but Fabio Capello has spoken to him. He’ll have Rio around for as long as he wants to stay. Rio is a popular man in the camp. Fabio thinks it would be good to have him around in a similar role to David Beckham.”
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is apparently happy with the arrangement, given the high quality of the brand new medical facilities at England’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus near Rustenburg. Ferdinand, 31, has been diagnosed with a “grade two cruciate ligament strain” by England’s former Arsenal physio Gary Lewin but no rupture was found. He has already been replaced in the squad by Tottenham’s Michael Dawson, who arrived yesterday morning.
With the injured Beckham already filling the role of team liaison officer, Ferdinand'sadvisor Jamie Moralee said: "Rio is absolutely distraught. He worked so hard after the back injury that had troubled him for much of the season and he was feeling extremely fit and very sharp.
"I know how proud he would have been to lead out England in their World Cup Group C opener against the United States next Saturday. It would have been the proudest moment.
"So to suffer this freak injury in training is just a nightmare for him. He is so upset he can hardly speak. It's a crying shame."
With some players admitting they heard a crack when Ferdinand went down after a clash with Aston Villa’s Emile Heskey, Frank Lampard – the new vice-captain behind Steven Gerrard in Rio’s absence – said: "I spoke to Rio and he’s very down. He is such a good mate and for this to happen made me feel sick to my stomach."
England are not the only ones with injury problems. Holland are fretting over ArjenRobben’s hamstring after their 6-1 thumping of Hungary, Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi is out of the tournament after hurting his ankle and re-inflaming his knee in the Nigerian camp in Richards Bay and Tottenham’s Wilson Palacios hurt his shin during Honduras’ the 3-0 defeat against Romania in Austria last night .
Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba is likely to miss the tournament with a broken arm despite "successful surgery" yesterday, while Mexican Guillermo Franco, Italy playmakerAndrea Pirlo and United States striker Jozy Altidore are all struggling.And those big name blows come after the withdrawal of Beckham, Germany captain Michael Ballack and Ghana midfielder Michael Essien.
"Of course we have to be careful about injuries but we have to prepare for the opening game against the USA on June 12. So, yes we do have to play our best players.
"I have to play all the players that will play against the USA for 45 or 60 minutes.”
The US, fresh from their impressive 2-1 win over Turkey in the final match of their send-off tour, beat Australia 3-1 in Ruimsig near Johannesburg yesterday.
England's other Group C rivals Algeria saw off the United Arab Emirates 1-0 while Ghan did the same to Latvia. Serbia edged Cameroon 4-3 and Slovakia beat Costa Rica 3-0. Italy's poor form continued with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland while South Africa's unbeaten run continued with a 1-0 win over Denmark.