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 April 13, 2002 | 1120 IST

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England gamble on Beckham, Mendieta back

Injuries dominated the build-up to the World Cup again on Friday as England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said he was prepared to gamble on captain David Beckham by taking him to the World Cup even if he is not fully fit.

Beckham faces at least six weeks out after breaking a bone in his left foot playing for Manchester United on Wednesday. Eriksson said the injury was a major cause for concern with the finals in South Korea and Japan exactly seven weeks away.

"Of course I'm willing to take a chance," he told reporters. "It's extremely important. He's the captain, he's one of the best footballers in the world today, so of course if there's a small chance that he can play we will take him with us.

"It's not just that we could lose the captain, we have to have someone kicking corners, free kicks, we have to have someone playing outside right of the midfield, so there are a lot of things to think about."

"But I am optimistic, I think he will come."

England name their final 23-man squad on May 21 but FIFA regulations state that a country can replace an injured player up to 24 hours before their first match, which for England is the June 2 group F game against Sweden.

England left-back Ashley Cole is also out of action at present recovering from a bruised knee and will miss next week's friendly against fellow World Cup finalists Paraguay.

"He is getting closer but he will not be in the England's too early," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

However, the 21-year-old should have enough time to cement his place in Eriksson's squad for the finals.


There was better news for Lazio's out of favour midfielder Gaizka Mendieta, who was recalled to Spain's squad for their final World Cup warm-up against Northern Ireland next week.

But there was no room for fellow midfielder Pep Guardiola who recently returned to action for Brescia after a four-month ban for testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.

Brazil midfielder Assuncao, who has eight caps, has given up on his dream of going to the World Cup despite being one of Roma's stars this season after scoring some notable free kicks.

"I don't think it will be possible for me to go to the World Cup after (coach Luiz Felipe) Scolari didn't call me up for the next friendly against Portugal," he was quoted as saying on the Gazzetta Dello Sport website.

Off the pitch, British fans raised their glasses to a court ruling on Friday that lets pubs serve beer over breakfast during the World Cup, rather than abide by antiquated opening hours.

"We are absolutely delighted with the decision," publican Martin Gough told reporters outside the High Court. "It's what the British public wanted. It's what the licencees wanted."

Due to the time difference with Korea and Japan, games will be on television during the morning in Britain, with England playing first round matches between 7 a.m. and 12.30 local time.

Security was on the agenda in South Korea as maritime police used helicopters, ships and rafts to rescue passengers from the sea in a drill involving a mock emergency landing by a plane.

Meanwhile, co-hosts Japan announced that foreigners will be allowed into national museums for free as part of a move to showcase Japanese culture, the Education Ministry said.

Admission to the facilities, which include Tokyo's noted National Museum of Modern Art as well as museums in the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara, will be free from May 27 to June 7 for overseas visitors who show their passports.

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