Beckham close to century of caps

David Beckham is tantalisingly close to becoming only the fifth Englishman in history to earn 100 caps for his country.

updated: November 18, 2007 09:57 IST
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David Beckham is tantalisingly close to becoming only the fifth Englishman in history to earn 100 caps for his country but claims he is more concerned with the prospect of England missing out on the UEFA Euro 2008 Finals.

Beckham played his 98th international game in yesterday's 1-0 friendly victory over Austria in Vienna and is expected to earn another cap against Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday.

But he faces the prospect of being stuck on 99 should England fail to qualify for the European Championships because that scenario would almost certainly lead to calls for a fresh approach, regardless of whether head coach Steve McClaren keeps his job.

The LA Galaxy midfielder, who is 32 years old, insists however that it is not his primary concern.

He said: "That is not preying on my mind at all. I am not thinking about that. All I am thinking about is the team qualifying for the competition.

"These games are not about David Beckham reaching 100 caps. It is about the team reaching the European finals and that is the most important thing."

Only four England players in history have completed a century of caps. Peter Shilton holds the record with 125 and the only outfield players to achieve the mark are legendary figures Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright.

If selected, Beckham could join that prestigious group as early as February when England are expected to play an as yet unconfirmed friendly against Switzerland - or in March when they are due to face France in Paris.

Although the midfielder wishes to continue his international career and has no immediate plans to retire England's stuttering Euro 2008 qualifying campaign is in itself a threat to his dream.

England face Croatia in their final Group E qualifying tie at Wembley without top scorer Michael Owen after he suffered a thigh strain against Austria and already missing injured Wayne Rooney.

"Unfortunately Michael has come off injured and that is going to be a big loss to us but we know the situation we are in, the position we are in," said Beckham after victory in Austria.

"We are waiting for teams to do us favours and, if they do us favours, we have to be ready. We can beat Croatia. If we are given the chance, we have to be ready. We can't make excuses.

"We have to be ready for Croatia and if other teams slip up, we need to take advantage."

Beckham's fellow midfielder Frank Lampard admits the injury to Owen marred a victory in Vienna that was secured with a goal from Peter Crouch.

He said: "We have to be happy with the result but the one disappointment of the night is the injury to Michael.

"Michael has got a history of scoring in big games when he really has to. That is what he is born to do basically so that is the frustrating thing for the team and Michael.

"But England is always a squad and the players that come in will have to perform. Peter Crouch is scoring goals regularly when he plays for England and whoever comes in will have to score as well.

He said, we can beat Croatia, we know we have got the ability in the team to do it.