England, Portugal to clash on Wednesday

Updated: 25 February 2007 09:05 IST

England captain David Beckham believes his team have put last year's selection rows between the players and the Football Association behind them.

England, Portugal to clash on Wednesday

London:

England captain David Beckham believes his team have put last year's selection rows between the players and the Football Association behind them, and are fully focused on Euro 2004 and the prospect of winning a first major tournament since 1966. Beckham faced the cameras at Sopwell House Hotel in Hertfordshire, England after an injury-depleted national squad had trained at Arsenal's training ground in London Colney on Monday afternoon before England travel to Faro on Tuesday for a friendly against Portugal on Wednesday. Last October, players threatened to go on strike before England's deciding Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey when defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended from international duty after missing a drugs test and, the following month, Leeds United striker Alan Smith was dropped for a friendly against Denmark after being arrested for throwing a plastic bottle into the crowd in a club game, causing further unrest in the squad. The media circus were out in force as the England squad met up at Arsenal's training ground in London Colney for the first time in 2004 and since their much-publicised spat with the Football Association. Last October, the national squad threatened to go on strike before England's deciding Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey when defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended after missing a drugs test and, the following month, Leeds United striker Alan Smith was dropped for a friendly against Denmark after being arrested for throwing a plastic bottle into the crowd. Happy campHowever, according to captain David Beckham, still nursing several knocks picked up in Sunday's Real Madrid encounter against Valencia, it is a happy camp once more. As far as problems on the pitch go, Beckham and Michael Owen were among eight players absent from training as they had taken part in high-profile games on Sunday. They were joined by Arsenal's Ashley Cole, Chelsea's Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Bridge, and Owen's Anfield team-mates Jamie Carragher and Emile Heskey in working out at Sopwell House instead. Ledley King, called up after Sol Campbell's withdrawal, was training along with 15 other members of the 24-man squad. However, there is not thought to be any further injury concerns for England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. "Obviously, the match that everyone will look to is the French game. That will be a tough game. Obviously, I have always said that I like to play against the hardest teams and the hardest players and we have got a very hard team to play against and very hard players," said England captain David Beckham.Beckham also mused over certain conversations he has had with Portuguese skipper and Real Madrid team-mate Luis Figo. They have discussed Wednesday's match in Faro and any team that contains players of the calibre of Rui Costa, Figo and Deco Souza will obviously be a very difficult proposition. First-choice goalkeeper David James will be busy and those memories of Euro 2000 and their three-two defeat at the hands of the Portuguese linger but if England can get a draw or better, then Beckham reckons it will certainly bode well for the summer. "Portugal are a great team and, as I said, the French team have also got some great players in their team so, as I said, to go over there and tomorrow (Tuesday) and play against them on Wednesday, and get a result, would give our players a big confidence boost," Beckham said. Teenage prodigyThe likes of teenage prodigy Wayne Rooney of Everton and Manchester United's Paul Scholes will need to be at their best in Faro if England are to impress against the Portuguese. The squad certainly looked more settled than in the winter when the squad were locked in talks after a series of major and well-publicised disagreements. However, the threatened players' strike was avoided and Beckham, wearing his diplomatic hat once more, was well aware that those scenes must never be allowed to happen again. "You know, we have got to be all on the same side here, you know. We can't have these situations. One: it doesn't help the preparations for any of the players and two: the whole nation are seeing it on their front page and back page and that is the last thing that anybody wants to see," Beckham said. Eriksson knows that headlines written about an English victory on Thursday are far more conducive to a successful campaign in Portugal this summer than another fall-out between the F.A. and their highly- paid, international stars. In addition, given the level of both apathy and anger in equal measure shown towards both parties last winter during the petty arguments and threatened strikes, if the team actually do their talking on the pitch, then that will be the way forward for both sides. (AP)



Topics : Football
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