Belfast Telegraph

Beckham heading to South Africa

England manager Fabio Capello has decided to take David Beckham and Peter Crouch to next summer's World Cup in South Africa. It is understood Capello will include them in his 23-man squad for the tournament which starts on June 11, barring loss of form or fitness.

Beckham, who will be 35 once the tournament starts, has demonstrated his commitment to the England cause by his readiness to clock up the air miles, flying from Los Angeles to join up with recent squads. His attitude around the squad has also been immaculate and Capello, who managed him at Real Madrid, sees him as the senior professional whose good habits rub off on others.

Beckham, who won his 115th cap in Wednesday's 3-0 victory over Belarus, has to complete the formalities of his loan move to AC Milan in January but he does not forsee any problems. It would be Beckham's fourth appearance at the World Cup finals, putting him on the same mark as Sir Bobby Charlton, the only other Englishman to accomplish the feat.

Capello has also seen enough of Tottenham striker Crouch, who scored twice against Belarus, to give him the nod ahead of Carlton Cole. Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey will fill the three other strikers' roles in the 23-man squad, meaning Michael Owen is almost certain to miss out, along with Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Sources also indicate Capello is to pick two players from either Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon or Shaun Wright-Phillips, so one will be left behind. With Beckham being joined by Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry as certainties for the squad, that leaves just two places in midfield up for grabs.

Joe Cole, who has recovered from a cruciate ligament injury but has yet to start a Premier League game for Chelsea this season, will be first in the queue as long as he can prove his fitness, ahead of the likes of James Milner, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young.

The final midfield place looks to be a straight fight between Manchester United team-mates Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves. Carrick was unimpressive in the 1-0 defeat to Ukraine on Saturday, while Hargreaves has not played for a year following operations on both his knees.

Capello plans to take 30 players to a pre-tournament training camp in Austria after the end of the Premier League season in May. Any players involved in the Champions League final will be excused.

Belfast Telegraph


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