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The Rediff Special/Trevor Huggins
Beckham provides bright spot for England
June 16, 2006
Captain David Beckham has led an unconvincing England to a place in the World Cup second round as one of the world's best-known footballers seeks to settle his score with the tournament.
Infamously red-carded against Argentina at the 1998 finals and handicapped by his recovery from a foot injury at the 2002 World Cup, Beckham is leading by example in Germany.
At 31, and sensing probably his last tilt at the game's biggest prize, Beckham has re-discovered his touch and accuracy with devastating effect on his Group B opponents.
His booming free kick against Paraguay produced the only goal of their opening game when it was deflected into his own net by luckless skipper Carlos Gamarra.
On Thursday, his inch-perfect cross from the right made it a straightforward header for Peter Crouch to score the vital 83rd minute goal that effectively put England through to the knockout phase with victory over Trinidad & Tobago.
He was also involved when Steven Gerrard turned and fired a superb curling shot past Shaka Hislop to put the result beyond doubt at 2-0 in stoppage time.
His contribution, along with a series of other chances created by the Real Madrid midfielder, earned Beckham a Man-of-the-Match award that confirmed a superb run of form in recent weeks.
As England limbered up for the finals, Beckham had set up two of their goals in a 3-1 friendly victory over Hungary and two more in their 6-0 demolition of Jamaica.
Though he clearly enjoys his fame and celebrity, Beckham remains dedicated to the game. Even in training, at club and international level, he is often the last to leave the pitch after practising his trademark free kicks.
An often sceptical British press have yet to undermine the self-belief of a player who many predicted would struggle in Spain, but who has subsequently convinced Real's boardroom and fans alike.
Critics have at times questioned whether Beckham should keep the armband and whether it would carry more authority if worn by Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard or Chelsea captain John Terry.
Beckham has been playing his captain's role to perfection, encouraging the fans, defending his team from criticism after some mediocre performances and banging the drum for the games ahead.
Deflecting attention on to the supporters who stood by their side in Nuremberg, he said: "These fans are the ones that deserves the goals and the wins. They are always behind us and they never stop cheering us the whole game.
"There is a lot more to come from us. We know we can and have to perform better but we'd have taken six points from two games beforehand whatever the performance."