News24

Beckham in the spotlight

2009-02-10 08:38

Watford - David Beckham will steal the headlines if he wins a record-equalling 108th cap for England in Wednesday's friendly against Spain, but Rio Ferdinand hopes the match proves far more significant for the long-term development of Fabio Capello's team.

Ferdinand believes England's meeting with the European champions at Seville's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium offers the perfect opportunity to develop the winning mentality needed finally to lift a major trophy.

Ferdinand has been impressed with the way Capello has restored England's equilibrium in his first year in charge, but the Manchester United defender is convinced their psychological approach to big matches needs to improve.

While United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled Ferdinand and his club colleagues with a fierce sense of self-belief that translates into success virtually every time the chips are down, England have often crumbled at the first sign of serious pressure.

A World Cup qualifying victory in Croatia and a friendly success over Germany has given Capello cause for optimism that England are starting to rectify the problem.

Now Ferdinand hopes the team can lay down another marker by claiming a positive result against Spain in their own backyard.

"We are playing against a team that are one of the best two in the world," he said. "We have to make sure we put on a performance and acquit ourselves in the right way.

"It will be a good yardstick to how far we have come under the new manager.

"There is just a winning mentality at United that is stronger than ever. We're very business-like.

"That is the kind of mentality we need to get with England. The sooner we can get it the better.

"It's down to working on the training field, the desire not to concede goals, the desire to be winners, the desire to claim more titles and victories."

Beckham's renaissance at AC Milan has persuaded Capello that the midfielder can still cut it at the highest level and Ferdinand revealed Beckham has a new spring in his step since moving to Italy.

He claimed critics who insist Beckham doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Moore, who captained England's 1966 World Cup winning team, are wide of the mark.

"It seems to have rejuvenated him. Speaking to him in training there seems to be that bounce in him again," Ferdinand said.

"He has been talking about who he has been training with and saying what it is like. It seems like he's delighted to be playing football in Europe again.

"Becks has become such a big personality in the entertainment world people start thinking he doesn't deserve it because he isn't a whole-hearted footballer.

"Someone like Becks doesn't play for Manchester United, Real Madrid and then go to AC Milan and become an integral part of that team after a few weeks through being someone on the catwalk.

"He's got inner determination that people who don't really know him wouldn't expect to be there."

Aside from Beckham's likely landmark, the focus will be on the behaviour of the crowd in Seville.

England's last visit to Spain in November 2004 was marred by racist chants directed at the team's black players, including Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips, by the fans at Madrid's Bernabeu stadium.

The Spanish FA were fined just 45,000 pounds by UEFA and any repeat would lead to calls for far stronger action.

Spain's chances of repeating their 1-0 win over England in that fixture are boosted by the return to fitness of Fernando Torres, although defender Carlos Puyol is out with a thigh problem.

Torres has been troubled by hamstring injury but he is keen to make Vicente del Bosque's starting line-up.

"When the time comes for the team being named, everyone wants to play," he said.

"It's special, for the opponents, and fundamental - more so after winning the European Championships, which means this team has the obligation to win every game."

AFP