Injured Beckham will face Germany

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David Beckham will face Germany in tomorrow's World Cup qualifying game at Wembley despite being short of full fitness.

David Beckham will face Germany in tomorrow's World Cup qualifying game at Wembley despite being short of full fitness.

The Manchester United midfielder, acknowledged by the Germans as being England's main danger, came through a training session with no adverse reaction to the left knee he injured against Arsenal on Sunday.

Beckham's appearance on the starting lineup is a major boost to England's chances of winning its first Group Nine game.

A loss would leave Kevin Keegan's team six points behind the Germans who won their opening game 2-0 against Greece a month ago.

The game is the last to be staged at Wembley stadium before it is demolished to make way for a new one on the same site.

Two of soccer's biggest names from the past, Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer, will lead the teams out and the 70,000 crowd will watch flashbacks of the stadium's 77-year-old history on the stadium's big screen.

Keegan hopes that his players won't be effected by the nostalgia which is bound to surround the game. But he has told his players to use the occasion to their advantage.

"It's the last game at Wembley and I have told the 11 players who start that they have a fantastic opportunity to be part of something very special," the England coach said.

Having beaten the Germans 1-0 at Euro 2000 in June, Keegan's team might have a psychological edge over them. But Germany now has a new coach, Rudi Voeller, and, apart from beating the Greeks, also outplayed Spain 4-1 in an exhibition game six weeks ago.

The fact the game is the last to be played at the home of English soccer adds even more spice to a matchup that has had some amazing twists and turns over the years.

Although England scored a 6-3 victory in Berlin in 1938, its 4-2 World Cup final victory at Wembley in 1966 - with Charlton and Beckenbauer on opposing sides - marked the real start of their great rivalry.

Geoff Hurst netted three goals that day for the first and, so far, only World Cup final hat-trick and the Germans still maintain his second goal didn't cross the line after hitting the underside of the crossbar.

Four years later, the Germans got their own back. With Charlton and Beckenbauer again in opposition, defending titlist England led 2-0 in the quarterfinal at Leon, Mexico before Germany hit back to win 3-2.

In 1972, Germany outplayed England 3-1 at Wembley on the way to winning the European Championship and then came a World Cup semifinal at Turin, Italy in 1990.

The teams went to a penalty shootout after a 1-1 tie and the Germans reached the final after England missed two spot kicks.

The Euro '96 semifinal at Wembley also went to penalties after a 1-1 tie and the Germans made it again, going on to win the European Championship for a record third time.

England goes into this game with the confidence gained from a 1-1 tie with world and European champion France at Saint Denis a month ago.

But Keegan, who is expected to name Liverpool's Michael Owen and Manchester United's Andy Cole as his strikeforce, knows that counts for nothing unless his team can start collecting points in the World Cup.

"This is first game of the qualifying campaign," he said. "It sets the standard but then comes another tough game against Finland in Helsinki (on Wednesday).

"I don't think we need to build this game up.

"It is a game of football, it's against Germany but at the end it's three points in a World Cup qualifying campaign.

"The Germans appear to have got back some of the spirit that seemed to be lacking in Euro 2000. They are a big, strong, physical side and are well organized.

"They will come here fancying their chances to turn around the result in Charleroi. They have been a remarkable consistent side over the years and have always performed well in World Cups.

"But this is another game, another time."

The Germans have been rocked by newspaper allegations back home concerning the conduct of the man who is set to succeed Voeller as coach, Bayer Leverkusen's Christoph Daum.

Daum, who is due to take over from Voeller in June, has denied reports that he had been involved in a drugs and prostitutes scandal.

Better news for the Germans was that talented midfielder Mehmet Scholl has recovered from a knee problem and will be fit to face England although tall striker Carsten Janker remains a doubtful starter because of a toe injury. Voeller is not expecting a one-sided game either way.

"England and Germany have played on a similar level for many years," the former World Cup striker said.

"The matches between us have always been tight, with the smallest detail deciding the outcome, and that is how it will be tomorrow."