David Beckham’s dream of competing at a record-breaking fourth World Cup finals is over this morning after the England player tore his Achilles tendon last night in action for Milan.
In action for his club side in a crucial clash with Chievo on Sunday evening, Beckham pulled up, unchallenged, as he received the ball and turned in the centre-circle. He limped off the pitch before being stretchered away in tears. His club released a statement confirming the gravity of the injury announcing: “a rupture of the Achilles tendon is suspected.” He is expected to arrive in Finland today to undergo surgery.
England Coach Fabio Capello commiserated with his No 7 last night, confirming to the Press: “We have to wait for the results of the scan, but it looks like he is out of the World Cup. I spoke with him after the game on Sunday night to offer my support, as did Franco Baldini. David is a great professional and has worked very hard to be ready for the World Cup, so missing it will be a big blow.”
Seen by some as a luxury footballer past his best, but by others as England’s most technically-gifted player available, Beckham’s place in the final 23 was hotly disputed. The former Manchester United player was aiming this summer to become the first Englishman to represent the country at a fourth World Cup finals, and his second stint at Milan was brought about by the ambitions of both the player and his international Coach to see the 34-year-old competing in top-level football once again.
This set-back puts an end to the speculation and distraction surrounding the player’s inclusion in the England squad, with the focus now switching to who can make the right-wing berth their own. Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Young, the currently injured Aaron Lennon and Manchester City’s Adam Johnson are in prime contention for the two spots dedicated to the position, with James Milner and Steven Gerrard also able to play there. Capello is set to name his provisional squad on May 16 before taking them to a training camp in Austria and then naming his final 23 on June 10 – a day before the tournament begins. England’s first game in South Africa is on Saturday June 12 against the United States, before meeting Algeria on June 18 and then Slovenia on June 23.
The 2010 finals were expected in some quarters to be Beckham’s last chance of playing at an international tournament, with his potential retirement from the national set-up quietly anticipated. Should he wish to continue playing for England, the player’s age and club facilities in Los Angeles will once again overshadow debate surrounding his place in the squad for 2012 qualifying, due to start on September 3, 2010. England is drawn in Group G alongside Bulgaria, Montenegro, Switzerland and Wales.