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Beckham back for England

David Beckham has been recalled to England's squad for their forthcoming matches against Austria and Croatia.

sports Updated: Nov 10, 2007 16:45 IST

David Beckham has been recalled to England's squad for their forthcoming matches against Austria and Croatia.

Beckham had missed England's last four games with a knee injury but the LA Galaxy midfielder is back for next Friday's friendly in Austria and the final Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia at Wembley the following Wednesday.

England coach Steve McClaren flew to Los Angeles last weekend to assess Beckham's fitness and he left convinced the former Manchester United star is ready to handle two matches in six days, despite barely having played for his club in the last 10 weeks.

Beckham should win his 98th and 99th caps for his country in these two matches, but could be left stuck one short of a century if England fail to qualify for Euro 2008.

McClaren admitted he was keen to bring Beckham back into the fold because he wants to draw on as much experience as possible for the Croatia.

"He hasn't played games but is included because, with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry out, we are lacking experience," McClaren said. "We need big game players and David Beckham is one of them.

"Believe me, this Croatia match will be a big game. I've always believed that. You need your experienced, big-time players in these matches.

"I needed to check on David's injury and I've done that. I've spoken to his medical and fitness people. The injury is fine and his fitness is fine."

With speculation mounting that England's likely elimination from the race for Euro 2008 will see McClaren lose his job, the coach has named a 26-man squad for what could be his last two matches in charge.

England captain Terry is missing as he recovers from knee surgery, while Manchester United defender Ferdinand has been left out because he is suspended for the qualifier.

Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole returns after an ankle injury and Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves is also back from injury.

England's fate will be effectively sealed if Russia beat Israel on Saturday, as the Russians will then only need to see off minnows Andorra to qualify ahead of McClaren's team.

The beleaguered coach won't watch the Russia match because he will be travelling back to England with his squad, but he remains convinced all is not lost.

"We've just got to hope that Israel, a proud nation with a great home record, can get a result," McClaren said. "Croatia go to Macedonia as well and that is not an easy game.

"I still believe that this Croatia game at Wembley will be the decider.

"We've got to be positive. The disappointment is we are in a situation when it is out of our hands. That is the big regret we've got."

McClaren will use the friendly in Vienna to give Beckham and Cole much needed playing time after their injuries.

"We are focusing on Austria because it will be good preparation for Croatia.

"We're not going to take any risks with players. But the likes of Ashley Cole and David Beckham have't played so it might be an opportunity to give them match practice."

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Paul Robinson (Tottenham), David James (Portsmouth), Scott Carson (Liverpool, on loan at Aston Villa)

Defenders: Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Nicky Shorey (Reading), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Sol Campbell (Portsmouth), Joleon Lescott (Everton), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Phil Neville (Everton)

Midfielders: David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Owen Hargreaves (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea), David Bentley (Blackburn Rovers)

Strikers: Alan Smith (Newcastle), Michael Owen (Newcastle), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Peter Crouch (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)