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By ESPN Staff

Beckham targets AC return after eye-catching cameo

Fabio Capello compared his surprise at David Beckham's man of the match award for a cameo substitute performance against Belarus with US President Barack Obama winning the Nobel peace prize.

• England 3-0 Belarus
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Beckham lifted England's tempo and hit a post when he came off the bench for the last half-hour of the 3-0 victory. But Capello admitted he had laughed when he heard of the award saying: "I was a bit surprised. It was like Obama winning the Nobel prize after 10 months as President. Beckham was on the field for just half an hour.''

Capello, however, went on to praise the manner in which Beckham always makes an impact following a victory which made it nine wins out of 10 for England in a convincing World Cup qualifying campaign. Capello said: "Whether Beckham plays five minutes, 20 minutes or half an hour he always plays very well. Sometimes substitutes have a problem to play normally. David always plays well.''

It was a clear indication that Beckham is still firmly in Capello's plans for South Africa, despite him failing even to make the bench for Saturday's defeat against Ukraine. With Beckham admitting that his second loan spell with AC Milan is "95% done'' it was one of the few positives to come out of a match whose result was largely meaningless.

He said: "Tonight was important for getting over the loss (against Ukraine on Saturday).We needed to end on a high. We didn't deserve to lose last time and we wanted to end the campaign well. We all have to prove with every game and every training session that we want to be in the squad for every game. Not just the World Cup, but every qualifier and every time we meet up.''

On his likely return to the San Siro, he added: "It's close. I've always said I want to go back there if they want me. AC have said they wanted me back since I left to go back to the United States and they're saying the same now. It's 95% done so I don't know why it wouldn't happen now.''

Another was the form of Tottenham striker Peter Crouch, who seized the chance to impress Capello with two goals. The first came within four minutes when he turned in a cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor. He added another from close range in the second half with Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips contributing the other.

Capello, however, was not being drawn on whether Crouch, who has now scored 18 goals in 35 England appearances, had furthered his case for a place on the plane to South Africa. He said: "I know Crouch well. He is one part of the squad and I know he has scored a lot of goals.''

Crouch said: "It was very enjoyable. It is good to finish the qualifying campaign on a winning note at Wembley and take that into the World Cup. For me personally I was pleased to get a couple of goals. Have I given the manager a bit of food for thought? Yes. All I can do when given an opportunity is to try to take it and the goals help and hopefully my performance has given him something to think about.

"People keep asking me that question and I seem to always be saying that. I am pleased with the way it went. But we have got some fantastic competition for places, certainly in the striking area, and all I can do is to score goals and hopefully get a chance.''

Despite Crouch's two goals Sunderland manager Steve Bruce named substitute Beckham man of the match and the Tottenham striker diplomatically added: "David's got the ability to put the ball on a sixpence and he'll always have fantastic quality.''

Fellow scorer Shaun Wright-Phillips added: "They made things hard for us but we had to be patient. Respect to the lads, they kept giving me the ball and I kept picking myself up and going again. We've just got to show Fabio Capello what we are capable of and the rest is up to him.''

Capello also confessed that he was angry with his players in the first half and his remonstrations were clearly picked up by the television cameras. He refused to detail his frustrations, saying: "I did speak with the players but I can't say what. It's important to win and it was important for me to learn more things about my players. It was a really important game for me. I'm happy the way we played in the second half.''

Belarus coach Bernd Stange admitted his side missed the injured Alexander Hleb and also believed England could now go on to win the World Cup. He said: "If you lose 3-0 away you should have shame but I have no shame today. We gave England a present with an early goal and it was very difficult. I think 3-0 is a clear result, but it is too high.

"I cannot be proud because we lost but we have a good side and everybody saw we can play football. I'm not happy with 3-0. I'm disappointed but there is no shame. We have to develop our team. A small country cannot deliver enough players of quality. Five of our players are playing in a local league and the Premier League is a big gap. Fabio made it clear they are going to win the World Cup and they have a strong team. They should go for the cup, it's possible.''


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