Shilton's record set to survive

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The Independent Football

It has long been an ambition of David Beckham to break Peter Shilton's record of 125 caps for England and no other player has got so close. However, if Beckham has done the maths he will know that in order to do so he will have to play in every England game after Saturday, right up to the World Cup final in South Africa on 11 July 2010.

In order to equal Shilton, Beckham must now play in all three remaining England friendlies after Saturday's game against Brazil in Qatar – which he will miss because of his Los Angeles Galaxy commitments. He will also have to hope that England reach the semi-finals of the World Cup finals, and that he plays in every game.

That will mean that Beckham, currently on 115 caps, will have played in seven games at the tournament – three in the group stages, the first knockout round, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final or third and fourth-placed play-off. In addition to appearances in the three friendlies planned before South Africa – one in March and two at the end of the season – that would give Beckham a total of 125 caps.

By the end of the tournament he will be 35 and realistically unlikely to play again for England given the demands of flying from Los Angeles to London for games. Although he has said that he will never retire from international football it would be hard to see how Fabio Capello, or a potential successor, could justify continuing to pick a player who is, even now, not guaranteed to make the World Cup squad.

Beckham's lack of success in America in terms of trophies won has been an embarrassment for the LA Galaxy, whose 3-2 aggregate victory over Chivas for a place in the Western Conference play-off semi-final means they are still contenders for the Major League Soccer title.

While Beckham prepares for a game against the Houston Dynamos, Capello's squad fly to Doha without their veteran star and around seven other regulars including Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand. In spite of the absentees, Capello is still determined to play as close to his regular side as possible. No England manager has beaten Brazil since Bobby Robson in a pre-World Cup friendly in 1990.

Capello was made aware by Rafael Benitez that there was a chance that Gerrard might play for Liverpool in last night's game against Birmingham City before the squad was named. Both decided that the player could benefit from the rest and would not be selected for the trip to Qatar. Owen Hargreaves is still some way off fitness having suffered a calf injury last week that has set him back.

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