LONDON (AP) — England coach Fabio Capello has given a strong indication that Galaxy midfielder David Beckham will make it to a fourth World Cup, hailing the former captain’s ability to bring the squad together.
The 34-year-old Beckham made his 114th international appearance as England routed Croatia 5-1 on Wednesday to qualify for next year’s tournament with two games to spare. Beckham is 11 games shy of the English record for appearances, held by goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
“He is always with us because for me he is one of the most important players,” Capello said Thursday. “He is good in the group. He is good in every moment during the training. Some players are important for the position and morale of the group.”
But to make Capello’s cut, Beckham will have to leave the Galaxy in January to rejoin AC Milan or find another top European club. Capello said Beckham must stay fit during MLS’s offseason.
If Beckham avoids injury or a deterioration in form, he could take Shaun Wright-Phillips’
place on the 23-man roster. Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon are Capello’s speedy options on the right flank, but Beckham provides a different threat with precision crosses and free kicks.
Having been left out of Italy’s squad for the 1978 World Cup, Capello knows the pain of
missing out on a major tournament.
“I played the qualification for the Argentina World Cup, but I didn’t go to Argentina,” he
recalled. “I wasn’t injured. I just wasn’t good enough, and I heard on TV that I was not in
While English players speak of fearing Capello, the man himself tries to dispel the image. He doesn’t even mind players complaining to him about why they aren’t being selected.
“My door is always open,” Capello said. “Three players asked me why I didn’t play them during this year, I explained why. I respect the players. The players respect me. This is very important.”
Capello, who took over from Steve McClaren after the failed Euro 2008 qualification campaign, has nine months to prepare England, seeking its first major title since the 1966 World Cup.
There are two more Group Six matches to play, against Ukraine and Belarus. Then there are likely to be four exhibitions, including a Nov. 14 match against Brazil in Qatar.
“It’s important to play Brazil because we will understand what we have to do if we play
against a team like Brazil or Spain,” Capello said. “We have arrived at a good level. We
played very well against Croatia. But we have to improve and be better at some moments, some movement with the ball and without the ball.”