Beckham shows fire and drive to join England's centurions list

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The Independent Online

His match fitness looked adequate, his passing from open play and set-piece delivery beyond reproach and, as David Beckham continued his quest to become English football's fifth centurion, here in the small hours yesterday, there was even a demonstration of growing self-awareness.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that the former England captain now plies his trade away from the glare and scrutiny of European football or, perhaps, he was just happy that his performance in a pre-season friendly outing for LA Galaxy at FC Dallas had gone off comparatively successfully in front of Franco Baldini, assistant to the England manager, Fabio Capello.

Beckham was in frank mood when analysing his hopes of winning a 100th cap under Capello, perhaps against France on 26 March.

"It's not as if my game will ever change because people say the standard is different here," he said. "My game will always be the same – I've always been a player that has never gone past players, but give me five yards and I'll put the ball in where someone will want it."

He added: "I've always said I always want to be available for my country. I don't want to let go of that and I still love passionately playing for my country – nothing's ever going to change that. I might be playing on the other side of the world, but nothing will change the passion.

"I don't know how much longer I can play for England. It's obviously down to other people to decide that, but it can come from the way I'm feeling and I always want to be available."

The closest to a goal in this keenly contested friendly came five minutes from time when Beckham's superb 45-yard pass found Landon Donovan, whose chip was kept out by goalkeeper Dario Sala. A minute later, Beckham showed that his competitive fire has not dulled at 32 years of age when he was booked for arguing with a linesman.

There was even an indication that MLS supporters are becoming more "sophisticated", with sections of the Dallas crowd booing Beckham on the final whistle because of his caution and the fact that he missed a much-hyped league game here last season through injury. He was unperturbed.

"It was a nice game on a great pitch with nice fans – well the majority were!" he said. "I got a bit of stick from some of them, but that's normal. People are always sceptical about me moving to MLS when I'm still pretty young, but I always said I saw it as a move to a league and a country that is going somewhere in soccer, and I want to be part of that.

"I'm proud to be part of that and I wanted to be here when I can still perform at a high level, when I'm still young enough to perform at a high level."

Whether Baldini thinks he is still able to perform at a high level will be seen on Thursday when Capello names his squad.

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