Beckham to play against Austria

David Beckham will return to the England team for its friendly against Austria on Friday after missing four matches due to a knee injury.

updated: November 17, 2007 18:09 IST
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David Beckham will return to the England team for its friendly against Austria on Friday after missing four matches due to a knee injury.

"It's a big game for David to prove his current form," England coach Steve McClaren said Thursday.

It will be the LA Galaxy star's 98th international match for England.

McClaren remained positive about England reaching next year's European Championships and denied any concern about his future as manager if the team fails to qualify.

"I know it's out of our hands, but I am very positive," McClaren said.

England is currently second in Group E, but is almost certain to miss out on Euro 2008 if Russia wins at Israel on Saturday.

The Russians would then be a point ahead with an easy game against Andorra on Wednesday, when England must beat group leader Croatia.

"I have been in similar situations before and survived them," McClaren said. "I expect Israel to get a good result on Saturday, so we will have all to play for on Wednesday.

"I am the one who is responsible, but I can only repeat that the campaign is not over yet. It's hypothetical to talk about the future."

Asked whether he should receive more backing like he did from leading players Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen earlier this week, McClaren said: "That's not my decision. It is up to the FA."

Besides the return of Beckham, McClaren made four more changes to the team that lost 2-1 to Russia.

Everton's Joleon Lescott will play in the heart of the defense, and Chelsea's Wayne Bridge will be on the left wing.

England misses Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Owen Hargreaves because of injuries, but Frank Lampard returns to the midfield, replacing Gareth Barry.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson was left out in favor of Aston Villa's Scott Carson, who will make his first appearance.

"We are just trying one or two things," McClaren said. "It is not said that this is also the lineup against Croatia. We will have to see how things work out in the match tomorrow."

Austria, co-host of Euro 2008, beat Ivory Coast 3-2 in October for its first win in nine matches this year.

"If we want a good result against England as well, we must try to build on that performance and show the same fighting spirit," said AEK Athens goalkeeper Jurgen Macho, who was with Sunderland and Chelsea between 2002 and 2004.

Macho will play against England, but is still battling with Helge Payer (Rapid Vienna) and Alexander Manninger (AC Siena, Italy) to be Austria's first choice in goal at the tournament next year.

"England is a highly respected opponent. We definitely will learn a lot from that match," coach Josef Hickersberger said.

Hickersberger had few problems in putting together a roster for Friday's game.

Midfielder Andreas Ibertsberger from German Bundesliga club SC Freiburg was out with adductor problems, while defenders Martin Stranzl and Martin Hiden were doubtful due to minor injuries.

SC Braga forward Roland Linz was left off the team.

England last played Austria in the 2006 World Championship qualifiers, drawing 2-2 in Vienna in September 2004, and winning 1-0 in Manchester in October 2005.