Neil Ashton: Cahill's slip against Brazil shows Hodgson needs Ferdinand at the heart of England's defence
00:07 GMT, 7 February 2013
01:39 GMT, 7 February 2013
High up in the stands at Wembley, the best available central defender in the country left his calling card. Rio Ferdinand is itching to play for England again, tweeting in advance of Brazil’s visit that he was on his way to north-west London.
Ferdinand will never give up hope, and Gary Cahill’s elementary mistake at the start of the second half is the reason why.
This is the scenario unfolding for England’s head coach Roy Hodgson as he continues to hide behind the ‘footballing reasons’ for Ferdinand’s continued exclusion. Cahill is a good defender, but not good enough at the very highest level.
Out in the cold: Rio Ferdinand has not played for England since the draw with Switzerland last June
He was brutally exposed when his failure to complete a pass allowed Fred, on as a substitute, to equalise at the start of the second half.
There will have been reminders from Hodgson at half-time for England to keep their composure after Wayne Rooney’s sweetly taken goal put them in front. Instead the mistake by Cahill is a cause for concern, an alarming moment for a player with a Champions League winner’s medal.
Until that moment he had done well enough, twice snuffing out the threat of Neymar in the first half as the Brazilian worried England’s defence.
At 34, Ferdinand is still good enough to represent his country. Frank Lampard, who scored after coming on in the second half, is the same age. Lampard has been assured that he will be part of Hodgson’s squad if England get through Group H and board the plane to Brazil next summer.
By then he will be nearly 36 and the assumption is that the remaining members of the Golden Generation will call it a day after the World Cup.
Gutted: Gary Cahill is dejected after his mistake allowed Fred to equalise for Brazil against England (below)
Lampard has made 17 Barclays Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, but if Hodgson is number crunching then Ferdinand represents full value as well. The Manchester United defender has started 19 games for the club in the Premier League and come on as a substitute in one other.
He is playing, unquestionably, for the best team in the country and his selection, fitness permitting, against Real Madrid next week is automatic.
That is a Champions League tie, a second-round first-leg clash in the Bernabeu where Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will take some beating.
Fergie always turns to Ferdinand in big games, just as he has against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.
In command: Ferdinand has impressed in defence for Manchester United this season
After his injury just days before the start of the 2010 World Cup, Ferdinand made only a handful of appearances under Fabio Capello the following season.
Hodgson has never picked him in a squad, preferring John Terry at the heart of his defence until he made the surprise decision to retire.
Recalling Ferdinand would provide some mild embarrassment for Hodgson, but ending the defender’s international career on the Tube is way out in front when it comes to wincing.
England have important games next month, particularly when they travel to Montenegro for a vital World Cup qualifier.
Those are the games that really count at international level, true tests for the top players.
Examples: Franco Baresi (left) and Paolo Maldini both continued into their thirties at international level
Some of the great defenders, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi among them, have been to World Cups when they were well past their prime.
Simply because they were 34 at the time didn’t make them bad players and that is something Hodgson should consider carefully when he selects his squad next month.
Beyond that, Hodgson hopes this team will be heading for Brazil and the World Cup finals.
To do well, he will need England’s best players with him.