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Beckham returns to England for Croatia friendly

Posted: Monday August 18, 2003 11:39 AM

LONDON (AP) -- David Beckham is back.

After a so-so start in preseason games with Real Madrid, the England captain returns to his home turf for Wednesday's friendly against Croatia at Ipswich's Portman Road stadium.

Beckham was jeered Sunday in Real Madrid's first match on Spanish soil. Purchased in June from Manchester United for US$40 million, Beckham picked up a yellow card and made little impact at Valencia -- one Spanish paper called his debut a "dud."

But he should get a much friendlier reception when he pulls on the England shirt and captain's armband again.

Real Madrid seems to have problems fitting in Beckham at midfield.

Croatia coach Otto Baric suggested England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson may have face a similar puzzle to solve.

"With players like (Paul) Scholes, (Steven) Gerrard and (Owen) Hargreaves at his disposal, there might not even be room for the likes of Beckham," Baric said.

Newcastle midfielder Kieron Dyer and Chelsea's Joe Cole are also available at midfield.

Beckham picked up a mild back injury in the Valencia match -- won 6-5 by Real Madrid on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw -- but decided to play with England instead of rest.

"I think it's important you know, I'm England captain," Beckham said. "I've got to be there with the players and the team."

England is full strength everywhere but up front. Teenager Wayne Rooney will miss the game with an ankle injury, leaving only Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and James Beattie.

Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell anchor the defense and should be joined by promising defenders John Terry and Jonathan Woodgate.

Eriksson has David James, Paul Robinson and Chris Kirkland to choose from in goal.

Croatia will be missing its No. 1 striking tandem of Dado Prso and Tomislav Maric, both nursing injuries. Juventus defender Igor Tudor is also in doubt with an ankle injury.

Croatia and England are each in second place in their Euro 2004 qualifying groups with their fates likely to be determined in the final qualifying games later this year.

Croatian defender Boris Zivkovic, who plays for English side Portsmouth, expects a tight game.

"Owen and David Beckham are both great, world-class players who everyone knows about, but they have many good players in their team, so it is going to be a very hard match," he said.


 
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