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Beckham close to record England caps

DAVID Beckham is set to make history today when England plays Euro champion Spain in what will be Fabio Capello toughest test during an impressive start as England manager.

Beckham can equal Bobby Moore's mark of 108 appearances for England, the most by an outfield player and second only to Peter Shilton's 125 appearances in goal.

"(Beckham's) a reference for the English team," said Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Beckham's former teammate at Real Madrid. "He brings a lot of leadership and character to the locker room and I think that hasn't changed now."

Capello has recalled Beckham to the squad after the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder moved to AC Milan to keep alive his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup. Beckham is looking to turn his two-month loan deal into a permanent move.

Capello is off to the best start by an England coach since Alf Ramsey, who led England to victory at the 1966 World Cup, with eight wins in 10 games and a single defeat.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque puts Capello's successful reconstruction of England down to defense, discipline and an emerging crop of players. "There is a new generation of young English players that are very talented and will be very good, are very good," Del Bosque said.

Regulars Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe as well as defender Luke Young are out, and striker Emile Heskey is doubtful. Heskey is among six players from Aston Villa, including midfielder James Milner, while striker Carlton Cole of West Ham could also make a debut. Capello can count on the return of defender Ashley Cole, while John Terry and Rio Ferdinand will anchor the defense for the first time since a World Cup qualifying win at Croatia last year.

Spain, the top-ranked country in FIFA's poll, is on a 28-match unbeaten run dating to November 2006.

Del Bosque has won six straight since replacing Luis Aragones, while Spain has taken 18 straight when figuring in an extra-time penalty victory over Italy at Euro 2008.

Striker Fernando Torres will feature despite only recently returning from a hamstring injury, which had left Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez concerned. "Everyone wants to enjoy this great moment with the national squad after having gone through bad times in other years," said Torres, one of five Liverpool players in the team.

Casillas will move into third in Spain's all-time appearances list with 89, to trail only Real Madrid teammate Raul Gonzalez (102) and Andoni Zubizaretta (126).


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