DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Fabio Capello insists England defender Rio Ferdinand should not be held responsible for his side's 1-0 qualifying defeat against Ukraine.
Capello saw England's unblemished record in Group Six come to an end on Saturday as Serhiy Nazarenko's deflected first half goal in the Dnipro Stadium sunk his 10 men.
The turning point of a fiery encounter, which was marred by Ukraine fans repeatedly throwing flares onto the pitch, came when Ferdinand made a woeful misjudgement that led to England goalkeeper Robert Green being dismissed.
Ferdinand allowed a long ball to bounce past him to Artem Milevskiy, who was brought down in the penalty area by Green as he tried to save.
After initially appearing to send off Ferdinand, Slovenian referee Damir Skomina showed Green a red card, making him the first England goalkeeper to be sent off.
Andriy Shevchenko missed the penalty, but England never really recovered and Ukraine pushed home their one-man advantage through Nazarenko's strike.
Ferdinand's blunder wasn't the first by the Manchester United centre-back in an England shirt recently. He was also at fault for a goal in England's friendly draw in Holland in August.
But Capello preferred to point the finger of blame at the referee rather than Ferdinand, who has also been below-par for United during an injury-hit start to the season.
"He made one mistake, that is all, and that was for the penalty," Capello said.
"Normally I don't speak about referees. This time I am changing my mind. It was a big mistake.
"Rio was running, the goalkeeper is diving. I need someone to explain to me how he can get that wrong.
"I spoke with the fourth official when the referee showed Rio the red card. He said he would tell the referee it was not Rio.
"The referee thought Rio had fouled the player but it so obviously was not him."
Capello confronted Skomina after the final whistle heralded his first defeat in a competitive game as England coach.
But the Italian's frustration didn't extend to his team despite their spluttering display.
In the first half they could have been several goals behind as the defence creaked after Green's dismissal.
Wayne Rooney led a more spirited second half effort but England rarely went close to an equaliser as their eight-match winning run in qualifying came to an end.
At least Capello could take heart from the fact that his team's place at next year's World Cup in South Africa had already been secured in convincing fashion.
"I am proud of my team. In the second half we played very well and created a lot of chances, right until the very last minute," he said.
With Green suspended for Wednesday's final qualifier against Belarus at Wembley, Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, who came on for the West Ham stopper when he was sent off, is likely to regain his position between the posts.
Capello may also have to pick a replacement for Steven Gerrard after the Liverpool midfielder was substituted at half-time with a groin injury.
Ukraine coach Alexiy Mikhailychenko saluted his team's performance as they defeated England for the first time.
The victory moved them above Croatia into second place and a victory in Andorra on Wednesday should guarantee a play-off place.
"I am really pleased to get this result," Mikhailychenko said. "We still have a game to win but we have given ourselves the best possible chance."
WATFORD, England (AFP) - As David James watched his England team-mates celebrate qualifying for the World Cup finals on his television, an unpleasant thought crossed the Portsmouth goalkeeper's mind.
What if he was still be watching from the sidelines by the time England kick off their campaign to win the World Cup in South Africa next year?
In the five games James had missed as a result of a series of injuries, West Ham's Robert Green had performed well enough and, more importantly for England coach Fabio Capello, the team had kept on winning.
James only had to look at the treatment handed out to Michael Owen - banished from the squad entirely - and David Beckham - reduced to a bit-part substitutes role - to know that experience and reputation are no guarantee of selection under the Italian.
Now James is fit Capello faces a tough choice between him and Green and the former Liverpool star acknowledges that he may not regain his place for Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
"I don't even know if I'm going to start on Saturday. Mr Capello, from here until the World Cup, will be making the right decisions," James said.
"If I'm not the one who starts the game and it's for the benefit of England, that's fine.
"The process, my whole existence here, is for England to be successful. That doesn't necessarily include playing because, at the end of the day, it's the squad that will be victorious, not just the eleven players on the field."
The 39-year-old, once dubbed "Calamity James" for a series of mistakes made during his time at Liverpool, is never mentioned as one of the world's best goalkeepers, yet he has rarely let his country down.
Manchester United's Ben Foster, who will miss the Ukraine game through injury, was regarded as James's main rival going into this season, but the youngster has produced enough nervous displays for his club to suggest he may not be ready for the pressure of the World Cup just yet.
James believes the scrutiny of being England's number one can prove too much for younger goalkeepers and he said: "It's a difficult job playing for England, period, whether you're a goalkeeper or a centre-forward.
"You have to go through these experiences. If you have criticism it's a cliche to say you'll come out right in the end. You don't always.
"Most people won't. But it's a part of the process. I'm sure that, come the World Cup finals, we've got enough months ahead of us to ensure that the three goalkeepers in the squad will be well tuned and prepared."
However, James expects Foster to emerge intact from his current malaise.
"I'm sure he's in the right place to get the right advice at Manchester United," James added. "The longevity of any career is going to have ups and downs.
"Depending on who you play when you're having a down will depend upon how much scrutiny you'll be under. You don't get any higher scrutiny when you're playing for Manchester United and England.
"There are things you can improve on and work on, rather than just analysing that you lost the game. Sometimes you lose good games. You play well but come up against a better side and they beat you. You can't win every game.
"For every game that I've played, I've been under scrutiny anyway. The way the manager is, there's no guarantee - even though I'd started every match - that that would continue, as far as I was concerned."
WATFORD, England (AFP) - When it comes to putting his medals on the table, Michael Carrick can produce a haul that eclipses even the most illustrious members of England's midfield, yet the Manchester United star still remains his country's forgotten man.
Carrick has won more Premier League and Champions League silverware than Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have managed between them during their careers.
While Lampard has held the Premier League trophy twice, the Chelsea star has yet to taste Champions League success. Liverpool captain Gerrard lifted the European Cup in 2005, but he is still waiting for a first title victory.
Even Gareth Barry is ahead of Carrick in the midfield pecking order despite failing to win a single major trophy in his career to date.
Carrick has no such absences from his medal collection. Since joining United in 2006, the softly spoken 28-year-old has won three successive Premier League titles and helped United defeat Lampard's Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final.
The former Tottenham player more than played his part in those triumphs, but starring for one of the world's biggest clubs in Europe's top club competitions has failed to persuade a succession of England managers of his worth.
Carrick has won just 19 caps for his country since making his debut in 2001 and has yet to feature in a competitive fixture under current England coach Fabio Capello.
For a player with such exquisite passing ability and assured reading of the game, it seems strange that Carrick has been such a bit-part player.
Even the man himself agrees that his international career has never really got started.
"It probably isn't enough caps and I should have more," he said. "But I can't look back on it now, I have to look forward.
"Maybe I can look back on things at the end of my career and say things about my career. I don't think about it now.
"I should have more caps but things happen for a reason and things haven't worked out with England as well as they could have done.
"Things haven't fallen for me, but it's not something I have focused on.
"You have to be performing to be in the team. It's been a while since I started in a qualifier so hopefully the experience I've gained with United in top European games will help me when the chance comes along."
If Carrick wasn't such a shy character, he might have been tempted to question why the likes of Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren used him so little.
But he insists he does have a fierce competitive streak burning beneath his calm exterior.
"Without blowing my own trumpet, you can't play in and win Champions League finals, win leagues and play for Manchester United without being able to cope with expectations. You have to be a top player," he said.
"I don't feel on the outside. England is different to United and I haven't played as much as I would have liked at international level.
"You have to perform and to get into the team you have to please the manager and do things he wants. It's not easy as there aren't so many games as there are at club level so you have to take them when they come along.
"I had one game at the last World Cup which was great for me but I didn't manage to nail down the place. But the squad has a diferent feel and I would hope that when I get the chance I can take it now."
WATFORD, England (AFP) - Michael Carrick hopes to use England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Saturday to ignite his season after a slow start with Manchester United.
Carrick was left on the bench for United's draw against Sunderland at the weekend after Sir Alex Ferguson admitted it is often several months into the campaign before the midfielder finds his peak form.
The 28-year-old spoke to Ferguson about the United manager's comments but he has no problem with the criticism and insists he is beginning to reach his optimum level of performance anyway.
"When I get a month or so under my belt I hit top form. I had a chat with the gaffer (Ferguson) and he said that is when I am at my best," Carrick said on Wednesday.
"It wasn't a case that I went to speak to him about it. We were just chatting. It wasn't a meeting or anything like that. He suggested that was the case and it's fine with me, no problem.
"All the midfielders at United are playing well and it's just about rotating the squad at the moment. I've still played seven games or so. That's nearly as much as anyone. Hopefully I'm starting to hit top form now."
Carrick could be given a chance to stake a claim for more regular action in an England shirt over the next week as Fabio Capello's side conclude their already-successful qualifying campaign with a double-header against Ukraine and then Belarus on Wednesday.
England's place at next year's World Cup finals is assured after eight successive wins and Saturday's Ukraine clash presents Capello with an opportunity to look at one or two fringe players.
Carrick is competing with Manchester City's Gareth Barry and Chelsea's Frank Lampard for the holding midfield roles, but his astute passing and reading of the game offers something different to that pair.
The former Tottenham star, who has only 19 England caps, has hardly figured under Capello but he believes the European experience he has picked up with United would make him a valuable asset to his country.
"I want to play for my country and hopefully it's an opportunity to get a bit of a chance," he said.
"Saturday's obviously a tough game, a tough place to go and to be involved in that would be great.
"Playing in Europe with United I've gained a lot of experience since I last started a game for England so that should help me a lot.
"To pull on an England shirt is not a given. There's good competition, we're all playing at the top level so everyone's pushing to be involved and the results speak for themselves.
"It makes it easier for individuals to shine so, if I get the shirt, it's up to me to try to keep it.
"It seems a long time to go to the World Cup but it's very important when we do get together that we keep the momentum leading into next year."
LONDON (AFP) - England's World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Saturday is to make history by being the team's first international to be shown live in cinemas and on the Internet but not on TV, media group Perform said.
With England already qualified for next year's World Cup finals in South Africa, major television stations such as the BBC and Sky have opted against buying the rights to screen live coverage of the match being played in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.
Irish satellite broadcaster Setanta had been due to cover the match live but the group's British arm went bust in June.
Fans not travelling to the Ukraine can still see the game live at Odeon cinemas across England and over the Internet for a fee of between 5.0 and 12 pounds (5.5 and 13 euros, 8.0 and 19 dollars).
"Saturday's Ukraine versus England FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifying game will make history as the first England international to be broadcast exclusively over the Internet and in cinemas across the UK," said Perform, which will stream the game live over the Internet.
"Millions of people around the world follow live sports online and this shows a real sign of the times -- we're extremely excited to be involved in this landmark event," Perform executive chairman Andrew Croker said in the group's statement.