England coach Fabio Capello suffered a major blow today with the news that defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole will miss Wednesday's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier with Belarus. The Three Lions captain missed Saturday's 5-1 victory over Kazakhstan at Wembley with a back injury, and has not recovered in time to play in Minsk, while Cole is ruled out with a hamstring problem, the Football Association confirmed.
Capello was keen to have Terry back for a match that could prove more tricky than expected. England's defence looked unconvincing at times against a Kazakhstan team in 131st place on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
Now the Italian will have to hope Matthew Upson can improve on his shaky display on Saturday, or turn to Everton centre-back Joleon Lescott, who has been struggling for his club this season. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand will once again deputise for Terry as skipper.
Cole's absence is likely to hand his Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge a chance to start at left-back. The injury completes a miserable three days for the former Arsenal player, who was booed by sections of the Wembley crowd after his careless backpass led to Kazakhstan's goal.
"," Capello said. "Unfortunately they have no chance of playing, so it is best they return to Chelsea."
It's disappointing to lose two very experienced players in John Terry and Ashley Cole for the game in Belarus
With Terry out, Capello may opt to retain Gareth Barry in a holding midfield role, despite taking off the Aston Villa player at half-time on Saturday. If the former Real Madrid coach opts to switch to the 4-4-2 formation that proved so successful in the second half against Kazakhstan, and against Croatia last month, either Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard could have to play out of position on the left wing.
While Capello debates who should start in midfield, he has fewer worries about his attacking options, after Wayne Rooney took his tally to five in four games for club and country with a second-half double at Wembley. Following a long international goal drought, the 22-year-old is beginning to recapture the prolific form that first made him an England star at UEFA EURO 2004.
Capello still sees room for improvement from the Manchester United forward, though, and has told him he can become even more dangerous if he calms down in front of goal. "," he said.
"He runs, he comes back to win the ball. He does everything. He is an example to the other players. But it is possible for him to be better. I spoke with him when I first became England manager and told him technically he was very good.
"There are no problems with the head or feet. But when he arrives in front of the goal, sometimes he shoots too quickly. He has to be more patient, take things more slowly and understand what is happening around him. Then he will get more goals."
Wayne Rooney is in fantastic form at the moment. He is scoring a lot of goals and his movement and pace are excellent
England's bid to win their opening four FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the first time will be boosted if Belarus winger Alexander Hleb fails to recover from injury. Yet the Barcelona player is adamant his side will cause England problems, and likens their slick movement to the fluid style of his former club Arsenal.
"They are not conservative at all," Hleb said. "They move all over, like Arsenal, and pass the ball a lot. Belarus are a very dangerous side and this game will not be easy."
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