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France doesn't scare us: Beckham

By Trevor Huggins
Last updated on: May 30, 2004 16:27 IST
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Captain David Beckham says his England team will walk out with no fear when they meet holders France in their Euro 2004 opener next month in Lisbon.

The two sides square up on June 13 in one of the showcase games of the group stage, with France set to unleash the English premier league's top scorer in Thierry Henry, winger Robert Pires and Beckham's Real Madrid team mate Zinedine Zidane.

Patrick Vieira, who won the English league with Arsenal team mates Henry and Pires, should anchor France's midfield alongside Claude Makelele of Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea.

"People will always look at that team and say they're unbeatable, but they're definitely beatable," Beckham told reporters at England's training camp in Sardinia.

"This will be one of the hardest games in the competition, but it's up to our players. We're looking forward to the game. We're not scared of any team or any players. That's good.

"We've got a team of young players and they're not worried about going into any game or how good the French team, or Henry or Vieira, are on the day. They're just concentrating on winning."

Beckham was wary of setting too much store by France's dismal attempt to defend their title at the 2002 World Cup, exiting after the group stage without scoring a goal.

"We can take something from that. But I'm sure they will be playing a lot differently to how they did at the World Cup," Beckham said. "Both teams know how big this game is."

GREAT FRANCE

Having played in midfield with Zidane all season, Beckham said: "He realises we've got a great squad of players, as they do. They've got players who have been unbelievable for their clubs this season, such as Vieira, Henry and Makelele.

"It is going to be a hard game, but...you've got to put yourself up against the best -- and they're the best."

As for himself, Beckham believes his move last year to Spain from Manchester United has given him an edge, despite some criticism of his performances from a sceptical Spanish press.

"I've definitely had to improve my game and playing with the likes of Zidane and Ronaldo has helped my confidence," he said.

"It has helped my touch and the quickness of my feet has become a lot better, especially playing in the middle.

"People have only gone on at the end of this season about the 'failure' that I've been and another English player who has failed in Spain. But I don't feel that I've failed in Spain."

As for England, Beckham heaped praise on midfielder Steven Gerrard for his season with Liverpool and predicted that teenage striker Wayne Rooney would be a threat to the best defences.

He also delivered a vote of confidence to former United team mate Paul Scholes, an attacking midfielder who has not scored for his country in almost three years.

"He always creates space and gets into the right places at the right time. He hasn't scored for England for a while...but I'm sure he will put that right," Beckham said.

"Even playing at Real Madrid, the players always say to me 'what's he like'? They respect him as a footballer, and to have that respect from some of those players is great."

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Trevor Huggins
Source: REUTERS
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