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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Rio hoping to gauge England's progress

England defender Rio Ferdinand believes Wednesday's friendly against Spain will provide a yardstick to determine the national team's standing on the world stage.

The Spaniards are currently the number one ranked team in the world after winning the European Championships last summer.

England failed to reach the finals in Switzerland and Austria, but have since shown vast improvement under new boss Fabio Capello by winning their opening four World Cup qualifiers.

And Ferdinand believes England can take that form into Wednesday's game in Seville, adding that they fear nobody.

''It's a massive test. We all know what qualities of Spain they obviously won the European Championships,'' he said in a press conference broadcast by Sky Sports News.

''You only have to look at the names on their team sheet and it is full of quality. They have some of the best players in Europe, if not the world. But you don't fear playing anybody. We play for England and we know we can beat anyone on the planet.''

He added: ''Recently we have played France, Germany and Croatia who people say are the top ranked teams in Europe, if not the world.

''To add Spain to that list will give us a good pointer.''

Ferdinand also praised his former Manchester United team-mate David Beckham who is set to equal Bobby Moore's record of 108 England caps for an outfield player.

The 33-year-old has earned his call-up following some impressive performances since joining AC Milan on a short-term deal from Los Angeles Galaxy.

''He's had a lot challenges all through career and he has come through them all with flying colours,'' he said. ''He's still an integral member of squad. As the manager has said it is just a case of him being fit enough to play in the games.

''I've seen him at Milan and he looks as though he is enjoying his football. He has a zest about him and talking to him since he's been here he is having the time of his life.''

He added: ''Just to get to 100 caps is an unbelievable achievement, but then to be able to equal Bobby Moore's record is phenomenal. Long may it continue.''

Despite England's impressive start to Capello's reign as manager Ferdinand refused to be drawn on whether the Italian was the best England manager he has worked under.

''It is too early to talk best and worst managers. He is doing a good job at moment and long may it continue,'' he said.

''But as Fabio knows you are ultimately judged on whether you win tournaments. It is a cut-throat way of looking at it, but that's the way it is and I'm sure the manager wouldn't look at it any other way.''

Ferdinand explained that Capello was prepared to ditch anyone who did not meet his expectations.

He added: ''He's got his ideas and his views, he lays them out in black and white and if you can't do what he's asking, he'll get someone else in.''

Aston Villa winger James Milner could make his senior England debut, having won a record number of caps at under-21s level.

The former Newcastle United and Leeds player said: ''I hope I can get on the pitch at some point in the game.''

He believes the similarity in mentality in the England and England Under-21s squads makes it easy for players to settle in at the higher level.

''I think it helps a lot,'' he said. ''The set-ups are very similar - so when you do make the step up into the full squad you can settle in quite quickly.''

Milner paid tribute to Villa boss Martin O'Neill for the way he has brought on his game this season.

''You can see from his track record how well he's done with players,'' he said. ''The first time I was there, 'Gaby' [Gabriel Agbonlahor] was in and out of the side at Villa. You see how much he's come on and what more he's added to his game.

''It's a great club to be playing for at the moment. I'm enjoying my football and lucky enough to be playing with good players, working with good staff - and the manager fills you with a lot of confidence.

''You can see from the run we've been on this season, when you're enjoying your football you'll play your best football - and we've been doing that.''

Milner savoured morning training with the England squad, and described Fabio Capello's approach as ''incredibly professional''.

He believes England must be confident about securing victory over Spain, having beaten Germany in their last match in November.

Milner said: ''We are coming off a good result last time out with the confidence of going to Germany and getting a good result - that's no mean feat. I hope we can take the confidence from that and get a similar result.

''People say it's only a friendly - but you want to go out there and win every game.

''They're one of the best teams in the world. After coming off the win against Germany, it'll be disappointing not to get another win and get that momentum going.''


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