England to face Wales in WC qualifier

David Beckham is relishing the opportunity to face up to some of his former rivals in an all-British World Cup qualifier against Wales.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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England captain David Beckham is relishing the opportunity to face up to some of his former rivals from the English Premier League in an all-British World Cup qualifier against Wales at Old Trafford on Saturday. Beckham expects a Premiership style encounter in the game, which is followed four days later by another qualifier slightly farther afield, against Azerbaijan. Sven-Goran Eriksson's side are currently second in Group Six of the European qualifying groups for the 2006 World Cup, behind leaders Austria on goal difference with four points from two games. Eriksson looks set to welcome Sol Campbell back into the centre of defence following injury. Rio Ferdinand could well be among the line up too, just days after returning from an eight-month ban for failing to attend a drugs test. England look to have by far the stronger team on paper. But captain David Beckham is well aware that in games such as this - in which the opposing players are used to facing each other week in and week out - such comparisons are practically irrelevant. "The rivalry is big with these two countries, and it will be a heated confrontation, I'm sure. But we're looking forward to it, because I'm sure it will be like a proper English Premier League game on Saturday, and those are the games you live for," said Beckham. England striker Wayne Rooney, one of the stars of Euro 2004, has been hitting the back-page headlines again. The 18-year-old scored a hat-trick on his debut for Manchester United in the Champions League last week after a long injury lay-off. And former United player Beckham, who was himself involved in a memorable win for Real Madrid over Roma on the same night, feels that Rooney fully warrants the praise. "I think it's great. I think that Wayne deserves everything that he's getting at the moment, because he's a player that works hard, that lives for playing football - and I think that everything that's happening to him is great," Beckham said. Rooney's fellow striker Michael Owen, however, has not been having much fun of late. His move to Real Madrid has proved something of a baptism of fire. No goals so far, and plenty of criticism from the Spanish media. But Owen, whose place alongside Rooney could be in doubt because of injury as well as form, claims to be ready to silence his detractors. "You know, I haven't set the world alight at Real Madrid, but likewise I haven't been as bad or as non-effective as some people have said. I've not played as much as I'd have liked to, but I knew it was going to be a challenge right from the start, so it's nothing new. I mean, everyone could see that right from the start. So I don't know why it's such a big surprise now," said Owen. England's match against Wales will be followed just four days later by a lengthy trip to face Azerbaijan, also in Group Six. Owen, Beckham and company will be expected by the English press and public to take nothing less than six points from the two encounters. (AP)