It was a cruel night at the San Siro for David Beckham as his dreams of playing in a fourth consecutive World Cup was snatched away from him in a second after tearing his achilles tendon. He left the field in tears, realising that his last chance to represent his beloved England on the very biggest stage was now over. His future in an England shirt must also now be in serious doubt, as it does not look likely he will ever get another chance to add to his 115 caps.
Fabio Capello may have phoned Beckham to offer him his support and condolence, but deep down Capello knows it isn’t a catastrophic blow to England’s chances in June. Beckham has always possessed fantastic technique and composure when it came to delivering crosses and set plays into the box, and England will always miss what he brings in that respect.
However you cannot but help but feel that his specific role as a brilliant crosser of the ball was only going to be utilised off the substitutes bench anyway. Capello’s first choice right wingers were always going to be Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon.
Indeed, Capello has a tricky selection headache for the right winger slot ahead of South Africa. Both Walcott and Lennon can frighten defences with their lightning pace, something Beckham was certainly never in the squad for. However, a question mark remains over the two youngsters’ consistency with their delivery and the final ball.
This season, Walcott has shown flashes of the unquestionable talent which England fans saw in Zagreb against Croatia, but it has been sporadic at best with injuries limiting his starting chances at Arsenal.
Aaron Lennon was having a good season with Tottenham, as it appeared he had improved the accuracy of his final ball and composure in front of goal, which he has lacked in the past. However the mystery groin injury he sustained in January, which continues to rule him out of Spurs’ season must worry Capello as the countdown to the World Cup ticks down. Lennon’s injury opens up an opportunity to several other hopefuls, especially if the diminutive Spurs man cannot recover in time.
James Milner has had a stunning season with Aston Villa, converting to a central midfielder from a winger to great effect. He has combined goals, assists with a great work rate and looks a certainty to be in England’s final squad, with Capello bound to be highly impressed with his versatility.
The same cannot be said of Shaun Wright-Phillips who, like Walcott, has had a stop-start season. He impressed off the bench in the recent friendly against Egypt with a well taken goal, but that may not be enough for the Man City player. He has not always been a first choice pick for Roberto Mancini in the City team, and when he has played, he has not hit the heights of a few seasons ago. He may have had his last chance and if Lennon recovers, he is unlikely to be on the plane to South Africa.
It is obviously a great shame for David Beckham, as he inched ever closer to Peter Shilton’s all time most capped England player record. His professionalism and dedication to the game has always made him one of England’s great ambassadors for the game, and the rapturous reception he recieved from the Old Trafford crowd last Wednesday confirms that he will always be one of the greats of the English game.
There is no doubt that his experience and calm head would have been important within the England squad, however in footballing terms, for Capello to bring a player to the World Cup purely for when England get a corner or a free kick in a dangerous position seems unnecessary, and in the grand scheme of things, Beckham’s injury will not affect England’s chances come June.