DOHA: Wayne Rooney is poised to captain England for the first time in Saturday's friendly against Brazil after an ankle injury left John Terry struggling to be fit to face the five-times world champions.
The injury forced Terry to skip his usual eve-of-match media duties and although it was Gareth Barry who stood in for him in front of the press, head coach Fabio Capello confirmed that Rooney would take the armband in the event of the regular captain failing to recover.
"If John Terry does not play, Wayne Rooney will be captain," Capello said. "He is fit and I think he is ready to be captain."
Capello's faith in Rooney will come as a surprise to some given the forward's impetuous streak, which was highlighted as recently as Sunday when he mouthed "12 men" into a television camera at the end of Manchester United's defeat by Chelsea.
The implied slur on the integrity of match referee Martin Atkinson earned Rooney a rebuke from the Football Association but clearly has not caused Capello to question whether the Manchester United star is ready, at 24 and having recently become a father for the first time, for the responsibility associated with captaining his national side.
Capello maintained that England's medical staff were confident that Terry would be able to play but, with his Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard having already flown home, it is highly unlikely that the slightest risk will be taken with the defender's fitness.
"He has hurt his ankle and we need to check him but I think he will be okay," Capello said. "But if he is not 100 percent fit, he will not play."
If Terry is ruled out, Bolton's Gary Cahill looks set to win his first cap alongside Matthew Upson in the centre of defence with Wes Brown and Wayne Bridge at right- and left-back respectively.
Barry and Rooney will be the only representatives of Capello's first-choice line-up involved in a fixture that the Italian admits would have been daunting for even his strongest side.
"It is the same in Italy, Germany or England," Capello said. "There is always a big respect for Brazil. They have won a lot of titles and they always play well. They have a different style and players with a big imagination.
"That's why it is so important to play against Brazil. We can learn a lot from this match."
Instead of seeing how his best team can match up to the world's top-ranked nation, Capello will be able to see how some of his back-up players respond to playing under the unforgiving spotlight of a match against Brazil.
Lampard's absence will give Michael Carrick an opportunity to restate his case for a central midfield starting role while James Milner and Shaun Wright-Phillips are expected to fill the wide positions.
Saturday evening could be particularly significant for the right winger Wright-Phillips, who currently has Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon and David Beckham ahead of him in the queue for places on the plane to South Africa.
Capello's well-established reluctance to partner Rooney with Jermain Defoe means Darren Bent is likely to start up front.
In sharp contrast to the injury problems of England, Brazil are able to call on most of the players who put together a run of 11 straight wins before last month's defeat by Bolivia in the thin air of La Paz, by which time they were already assured of topping the South American qualifying group for the finals.
Under the guidance of Dunga, captain of the 1994 World Cup winning side, Brazil have re-established themselves as the top-ranked nation in world football.
That has not spared him criticism from some of the most demanding fans on the planet that he has gone too far in sacrificing flair in pursuit of results.
But Lucas, the Liverpool midfielder, believes Dunga has got the balance right.
"Brazil have a lot of quality and skilful players but are also trying to defend well," he said. "That is the key for any team and we will try to do that against England.
"Dunga has improved us a lot. He has tried to help all the players, we're stronger tactically, he has improved everything.
"With Brazil, people expect you to play with skill and flair all the time but with Dunga we are looking to play as a team with everyone helping each other."