David Beckham has vowed to continue his quest to win a century of caps for England, despite the bitter disappointment of missing out on qualification for Euro 2008.
The 32-year-old midfielder made his 99th international appearance as a second-half substitute in England's 3-2 defeat by Croatia on Wednesday night, and his decision to linger on the pitch after the final whistle suggested he was aware that he may have graced the Wembley turf for the final time.
But afterwards, the LA Galaxy Star insisted he still believed he could continue until the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa and made it clear he had no intention of retiring from the international stage.
"Without a doubt, I'm not retiring," Beckham said. "I said that the moment I was taken out of the team and the moment I came back into the team. I'm not stepping down."
Beckham's international obituary has been written before. There appeared to be no way back for him when, in the wake of the 2006 World Cup, Steve McClaren decided that his first significant act as England manager would be to drop the country's biggest star.
Many players would have opted to retire at that stage but Beckham swallowed the blow to his pride and his subsequent form for Real Madrid forced McClaren to recall him at the end of last season.
A lack of match fitness -- which was evident in his hour-long appearance in a friendly in Austria on Friday -- ensured Beckham started Wednesday's match on the bench.
But having been introduced at the start of the second half, he underlined his continuing value to any team he plays for by delivering an exquisitely precise cross for Peter Crouch to level the scores at 2-2 with 25 minutes left.
At that stage it appeared Beckham was set to grab a share of the plaudits for helping to lift England off the floor, but they were denied the point they needed to qualify by Mladen Petric's long-range winner for the Croatians.
The defeat will almost certainly result in McClaren leaving or being forced out of his job as manager and Beckham's bid for 100 caps will be left in the hands of his successor.
"We are disappointed as a team and obviously the nation will be disappointed about not qualifying," Beckham said. "There's not much more you can say. If you don't win games you don't qualify.
"It was a tough game but playing at Wembley we needed to win and we didn't. We just didn't perform tonight and that's the end of it."
England had only retained a chance to qualify going into their final match as a result of Israel's win over Russia at the weekend.
Beckham admitted that reprieve had made the defeat to Croatia harder to bear.
"We were given a second chance but you have to take them," he said. "It was handed on a plate to us before the game."