TOTTENHAM midfielder Rafael van der Vaart believes England’s decision to overlook Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is “strange”, believing him to still be one of the world’s best.
England manager Roy Hodgson left Ferdinand out of his squad for this summer’s European Championships for what he said were “footballing reasons” but Van der Vaart, an experienced Holland international, admits he sees no reason why that would be the case.
“It’s strange,” said Van der Vaart, 29. “I think he’s still one of the best defenders in England and maybe in the world. He’s fit and fresh and he plays for Manchester United so I’m surprised.”
Regardless, Van der Vaart still believes England can be confident about their ability to compete at Euro 2012, which begins on Friday. He said: “They still have a great team. It’s a pity for them that [Frank] Lampard is injured, but they have so many good players. They have a new manager, so maybe they’ll play a little bit different now. England are always a danger.”
Van der Vaart’s sentiments contrast those of one of Hodgson’s predecessors, Sven-Goran Eriksson, who believes that only concerns regarding Ferdinand’s fitness inhibited an England call-up.
“We mustn’t forget that Rio has suffered from injuries this season,” said Eriksson, who picked Ferdinand regularly for England. “With less than a week to go, Roy wanted the player joining the squad to be match fit. Someone who has carried on with his training after the end of league play. It has been an entirely football-based decision.
“Roy’s got rock solid knowledge when it comes to the players’ current form,” he added. “Remember, this is England. No squad is selected without criticism.”
■ Euro ‘92: England manager Graham Taylor overlooks prolific golden boot winner Ian Wright.
■ 1998 World Cup: Glenn Hoddle stuns the nation by dropping Paul Gascoigne on the eve of the tournament.
■ 2010 World Cup: Theo Walcott is left out by Fabio Capello, despite being included in the tournament’s build up.