Fabio Capello gave a clear indication that David Beckham is an integral part of his World Cup plans after England completed a convincing World Cup qualifying campaign with a routine 3-0 victory against Belarus.
The England manager made a point of singling out Beckham for praise after the former captain had come on for a cameo half-hour substitute performance during which he hit the post and lifted the tempo.
And while he admitted surprise at Beckham being handed the man-of-the-match award, comparing it to American president Barack Obama winning the Nobel peace prize after just 10 months in office, 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."
On Beckham being voted the best performer, Capello added: "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."
It was a signal, however, that Beckham is still firmly in Capello's thoughts 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 also one of the few positives to come out of a match from which the result was largely meaningless.
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."
Capello also confessed that he was angry with his players in the first half, and his remonstrations as they squandered possession 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 manager Bernd Stange admitted his side missed the injured Alexander Hleb but he believes 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.
"Fabio made it clear they are going to win the cup and they have a strong team. They should go for the cup, it's possible."