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Beckham closes in on WCup spot, AC Milan loan

WITH another loan move to AC Milan close to completion, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham can focus on ensuring it produces the required end result: a place in England's World Cup squad.

The 34-year-old Beckham demonstrated his enduring worth to his country yesterday, lifting England's tempo and rousing the home crowd during a 30-minute cameo against Belarus.

He used his first touch to set up the second goal as England completed its South Africa 2010 qualification campaign with a 3-0 victory.

It was Beckham's 115th international appearance, 10 short of the English record held by retired goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

Whether Beckham goes to a fourth World Cup next June, when he could break that record, is dependent on securing a move to a top European club.

That looks a certainty, with the deal to return to the Serie A almost complete, although on hold until the Galaxy season ends next month.

"It's close," Beckham said. "I've always said I want to go back there if they want me. AC Milan have said they wanted me back since I left to go back to the United States and they're saying the same now.

"It's 95 percent done so I don't know why it wouldn't happen now. It will be sorted out in the next month (after the playoffs) and I will probably be going there at the end of December."

While there was little surprise at Wembley Stadium that Beckham is Milan-bound, there was when he was named man of the match despite entering the match only in the 58th minute. It was awarded, though, by former Manchester United teammate Steve Bruce, who was working as a TV pundit.

"You can't deny his range of passing," the Sunderland manager said. "It's great for him that he can still make an impact."

Beckham responded: "I'm a little bit embarrassed."

Even Capello was taken aback, comparing the top US-based player with the country's president winning the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

"I just told him it was like Obama getting the Nobel Prize after (ten) months of being president," the Italian coach said in broken English. "Beckham gets (man of the match) after 30 minutes.

"When Beckham plays for 20 minutes, 50 minutes, 30 minutes, half an hour, half time, he's always focused. This is important. Sometimes some players as a substitute have some problems to play normal. David plays always well."

Even though he's no longer a regular starter, Beckham appears to have a good chance to make England's 23-man squad for next year's tournament.

"We all have to prove with every game and every training session that we want to be in the squad for every game," Beckham said. "Not just the World Cup, but every qualifier and every time we meet up."

Immediately after coming on - much to the crowd's delight - Beckham rolled a short corner to Shaun Wright Phillips on the edge of a crowded penalty area to score England's second goal in the team's last competitive match before the World Cup. Beckham also hit the post late on.

After failing to reach the 2008 European Championship, England completed qualifying with 9 wins and one loss, scoring more goals - 34 - than any other team in Europe.

"It has been exceptional," Beckham said. "It doesn't end there because we have to keep on performing in every game we play leading up to the World cup and every time we meet up we have to be focused and be ready."


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