Beckham confident referee will be strong

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The Independent Football

The entire England squad sat through a montage of disciplinary breaches from this World Cup on Tuesday evening as Sven Goran Eriksson outlined the perils that potentially lie in wait against Portugal. With the benefit of hindsight, David Beckham could have been given the night off.

The footage prepared by the Football Association's video technician, Gary Guyan, will not have impressed the need for self-control in Gelsenkirchen on the England captain to quite the same extent as the announcement yesterday that Fifa, football's world governing body, has chosen the Argentinian Horacio Elizondo to referee tomorrow's World Cup quarter-final. In Beckham's personal library he can recall Elizondo presenting him with the first red card of his Manchester United career during the club's ill-fated trip to Brazil for the World Club Championship in 2000, a decision prompted by a reckless foul on a Mexican opponent but which resulted in accusations from Sir Alex Ferguson that the official had used the player's global status to garnish his own reputation.

Beckham would not elaborate on his reunion with Elizondo when the subject arose yesterday, stating only that: "There will be two passionate teams wanting to reach the semi-finals so it needs a strong referee and I am sure he is." Though he did concede that a reunion with Luiz Felipe Scolari's Portugal was a recipe for controversy, Beckham said that the lessons learned from this tournament and given by Eriksson would ensure restraint prevails at the AufSchalke Arena.

"It can be very difficult to keep discipline on the football pitch sometimes because things happen and you do get frustrated," said the man who has been sent off as England captain more often than any other.

"In this World Cup I think there have been 25 red cards and 310 yellow cards so far, an awful lot. But now it comes to the point where we're in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, you have to be disciplined. It's England against Portugal and there's always things which happen in those games. It's going to be fiery and it's up to us players to keep cool."

The only man to score in three different World Cup finals for England will become only the third man in the nation's history to lead the team into the semi-finals with victory tomorrow, joining Bobby Moore and Terry Butcher. "It would be nice to be part of that and an honour to be amongst those players," he said. Tonight he will begin preparations on the speech he will deliver to the England team before they embark on the game that will define their tournament and, in many cases, their reputations, although he is determined it will not be his last.

"We have a very passionate changing-room at the moment and sometimes it takes that to get players and yourself lifted," Beckham revealed. "There's not much swearing on my part, but there is some. I do have a think the night before a game about what I want to say, but it is also an off-the-cuff thing and you just say what's on your mind.

"At the end of the tournament though it would be nice just to say a big thank you to Sven for winning us the World Cup. That's what we're all striving for."

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