Roy Hodgson has finally revealed the “football reasons” behind Rio Ferdinand’s England snub. Hodgson claimed he had overlooked Ferdinand because it would have been wrong to have him in his European Championship squad and not in the starting XI.
“Rio Ferdinand for me is not a player that you call up as a substitute, or to cover for the players that you have,” the England manager told ITV. “We turned to Martin Kelly [the Liverpool right-back] because I knew he was going to be someone who would be very useful to us. He’s very happy to be here knowing that his chances of playing a big part in the tournament are quite small. You don’t turn to people like Rio Ferdinand for that.”
The backlash against Ferdinand’s omission has threatened to overshadow England’s campaign, which they begin tomorrow against France.
Ferdinand accepts the curtain has come down on his England career.
"You would have to say it might be over with England for me. If I'm not getting picked now, especially when people are out injured, then it's unlikely I will be picked again," he told The Sun. "I always said I wouldn't retire from international football until I stopped playing and I won't. I will still be available."
Ferdinand meanwhile was unapologetic about his angry reaction to being overlooked for the squad. "If you aren't disappointed by being left at home when your country is playing in tournaments like this then there's a problem and you shouldn't be in professional football," he said.
"I'm in this game to achieve as much as I can. I'm paid to win and be a sore loser. I want to play in the big games and win big trophies. If that's a crime then I'm a criminal."
Meanwhile, England midfielder Ashley Young believes his team can make a winning start to Euro 2012 against France tomorrow after friendly wins over Norway and Belgium in recent weeks.
The Manchester United player, who is expected to partner Danny Welbeck in attack in the Group D opener, said: "Everybody in the squad is feeling confident ahead of that game and I'm sure if we can go out there and create the displays we've shown in the last couple of games, we can get a good result,"
Young said his suspended Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney was also helping, behind the scenes, to bond the team.
"He's been in the squad, keeping everyone happy, and that's the importance of having him around even though he's not playing the two games."
Brought to sit on the subs bench, Alou Diarra will be handed a crucial starting role in France's opener against England tomorrow.
The central midfielder was meant to be a backup to Yann M'Vila at Euro 2012, but an ankle injury for Laurent Blanc's first choice means Diarra will be in the starting lineup at the Group D match in Donetsk.
Diarra is relishing taking on England's Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard in a midfield scrap. He said "I've always played flat out" no matter the circumstances.
Russia appear to be taking the conservation of energy to extreme levels in Group A. Required to descend a single flight of stairs to the reception of the team's posh Warsaw hotel, Igor Denisov, their 28-year-old midfielder, elected to take the lift.
With Poland's coach courting controversy by appropriating "dyed-fox foreigners" to the national team, his goalkeeper is now claiming a current Germany international, Lucas Podolski, for the co-hosts. "He's Polish," Wojciech Szczseny said of his new Arsenal teammate.
"He texted me in Polish before the game, so he knows quite well what nationality he is. He wished me good luck and said to me, 'I'll see you in the final.' So hopefully I will."
Spain v Italy
Only an occasional visitor to recent major tournaments, Jose Mourinho will watch his Real Madrid players in person at this European Championship. He attended last night's Germany-Portugal tie in Lviv and plans to see today's meeting of Spain and Italy in Gdansk.
"I think it is a must for me to be close to my footballers in such a special moment for them," Mourinho said. "I'm Portuguese and I am with my national team, but at the same time I always support my players."
The Greece central defender Avraam Papadopoulos will miss the rest of Euro 2012 after suffering a knee injury in the game versus Poland on Friday.
He was replaced after 37 minutes and taken to hospital, where scans showed the 27-year-old Olympiacos player had damaged ligaments in his left knee.