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Rio Ferdinand has begun his appeal against an eight-month ban handed to him by the FA in December.

The Manchester United defender was given the suspension, and a £50,000 fine for missing a routine drugs test.

The 25-year-old is hopeful that a reduction will allow him to represent England at EURO 2004. However, a well as having the power to reduce the ban, the appeal panel also has the right increase it.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said: “If he could have a lesser punishment, I should be happy.

“If that’s fair or not, I will leave for the other people to decide.”

United were top of the Premiership and with the League’s best defensive record when Ferdinand started his suspension. But since his suspension began on Jnauary 20, they have slipped to third in the Premiership, 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.

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