Rio Ferdinand has reflected back on a horror tale from England’s 2006 World Cup – when the team feared they could be killed during terrifying turbulence while flying back from the tournament in Germany.

The Three Lions were heading home after being knocked out by Portugal in the quarter-finals but their torment was not over as they were forced to endure nightmare journey, with players and their wives ‘crying’ in their seats.

Ferdinand, a former Manchester United and England skipper, admitted even he was shaken to his core despite usually being ‘calm’ in similar situations, claiming he thought ‘this it it’ during the scary scenes.

‘We’d just been knocked out of the competition by Portugal in the quarter finals and we had the worst flight back you can imagine,’ he told the Sun.

‘We got caught up in some terrible weather and everybody thought we were going to crash. We were all crying.’

Ferdinand was part of a so-called ‘golden generation’ of stars at the tournament including Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Beckham.

And the former defender feared the group could be wiped out, with luggage flying around the cabin and even the experienced air hostesses looking concerned.

‘I was sat near Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard and their wives and everyone was screaming. It was turbulence on another level. It was mental and people and luggage were all over the place and no one knew what was going on.

‘I definitely thought, “This is it”, especially when I looked at the air stewardesses. You can always gauge how serious things are by their expressions and I looked at them and they were all sat down in their seats stony faced and clearly thinking, “f***, we’re in trouble”.

‘I’m usually quite calm but then I looked at them and I was properly scared.’

The tournament saw Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side dumped out on penalties against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co after a 0-0 draw.

Portugal had won the shootout 3-1 after misses from Lampard, Gerrard and Jamie Carragher to end their bid for glory in heartbreak.

Ferdinand, now a pundit after an illustrious career with United, picked up 81 caps for England – playing at two major tournaments. He was picked as a back-up defender for the 1998 World Cup in France but wasn’t selected for the 2000 Euros and missed the 2004 edition due to a drugs ban.

And he suffered further misery on the international stage as he was ruled out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa due to injury.

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