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   28 May, 2002 | 1408 IST


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Beckham set for Sweden - Eriksson

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Trevor Huggins

England captain David Beckham is set to play in their World Cup opener against Sweden on Sunday after recovering from a broken foot, manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said on Tuesday.

"He did a session this morning and he did everything -- free-kicks, corners, a lot of shooting and a lot of running," Eriksson said five days before the group F game in Saitama.

"Hopefully, this afternoon or tomorrow morning he will do everything with us. Hopefully, there will not be a reaction and, yes, we think he will be ready for Sweden.

Eriksson said he did not think he was taking a gamble on Beckham's fitness.

"Everything depends on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday practices," the coach said.

"But today I was out there on the pitch and I saw he did a very, very good session and without any pain at all. I was very pleased with what I saw today.

"He worked for more than one hour with the physios and fitness coach. It was very good to see him."

Beckham broke his foot nearly seven weeks ago in a tackle by Argentine Aldo Duscher in Manchester United's Champions League quarter-final second leg match against Deportivo Coruna.

The inspirational midfielder has not played since and only started practising with the ball a few days ago.

His return to the starting line-up will be an immense boost to England's World Cup campaign, preparations for which have been hampered by injury problems.


Not only is Beckham one of the most gifted players in the game, but his captaincy has lifted England when they most needed it, notably when he scored a last-minute equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Greece that booked their place in the finals.

Beckham's recovery finally began taking shape last week, with his rehabilitation programme in South Korea.

"Until last week, we didn't know who to play at outside right. We had a lot of options, of course, but we don't have another Beckham," Eriksson said. "Free-kicks, corners, it helps the whole squad a lot."

But Eriksson said he would not be wrapping Beckham in cotton wool, despite the chance of his skipper picking up another injury.

"When he comes in, we're going to do a lot of tactical work, a lot of finishing. Anything can happen in a training session.

"But he has to play normal football or he will not be ready for Sunday.

Eriksson summed up the mood in the England camp over Beckham's long-awaited return.

"Everything looks good today," he said. "We are very, very optimistic, as he is, for Sunday."

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