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Beckham starts for England for 1st time in 2 years

DAVID Beckham was closer to achieving his dream of playing in another World Cup by starting and finishing his first competitive match for England since 2007 in yesterday's 6-0 rout of Andorra in a qualifier.

A 112th England appearance at the age of 34 will raise Beckham's hopes of making the finals in South Africa next year, assuming his team qualifies, and of potentially breaking the national all-time record of 125 caps held by retired goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

Beckham has 17 goals in his 13-year England career, but he is yet to score at England's national stadium - the old or the rebuilt Wembley. The crowd shouted "shoot, shoot" in the dying moments on Wednesday, hoping to be there for his first Wembley goal.

"It's obviously missing, but I don't care," Beckham said. "At the end of the day, I'm happy with being in this team. I'm happy with performing in this team and playing with these players because it's a great team and a great squad to be around at the moment. Whether I score or not at Wembley, we'll see. As long as we carry on winning, I don't care."

Manager Fabio Capello selected Beckham in central midfield because Gareth Barry was suspended and Michael Carrick was injured.

"Being in the center of midfield gave me more time on the ball and definitely more touch with the ball," Beckham said. "I enjoyed the role, I enjoyed playing."

The midfielder, who already holds the national record for an outfield player, owes his enduring international career to the loan move to AC Milan in January from the Los Angeles Galaxy, ensuring he continued to play top-level club football.

Beckham is to rejoin the Galaxy for its July 16 match at New York, but intends to rejoin Milan in January.

He warned England followers against becoming too confident and complacent, as the team was still haunted by the failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

"That was a really disappointing time for us," Beckham said. "But the support that the fans have shown us tonight on a difficult night of getting here and getting home (because of a strike by subway workers) shows the passion that they've got for the team and it shows the loyalty that they show for us."

Beckham also urged caution about growing expectations from their success in the qualifiers, with some saying England is a strong contender to win the World Cup.

"There is always going to be high expectation because of the players we've got," Beckham said. "We've got to be careful. We've won seven games, we've put in seven good performances but we're not a team that gets carried away and we're not a squad that gets carried away. We can't afford to. At the end of the day, we want to qualify. That's the goal. Once we qualify, then we see what happens in the competition, but the main objective is to qualify."

Beckham had started friendlies for England, but not a competitive match since a European Championship qualifier in Estonia in June 2007 after being recalled to the squad.

He had been dropped by then-manager Steve McClaren after losing to Portugal in the World Cup quarterfinals in June 2006.

Beckham made his international debut in 1996 and surpassed former captain Bobby Moore (1962-73) for outfield appearances in March.


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