Beckham, Ronaldinho thank Milan move for recalls
LONDON (AP) - David Beckham and Ronaldinho are back in their national team squads against familiar foes and the AC Milan teammates are out to prove they deserve a shot at another World Cup.
Dropped by manager Fabio Capello for England’s last game, Beckham has been recalled for Wednesday’s friendly against European champion Spain, where he used to play for Real Madrid.
Ronaldinho was left out of Brazil’s last three games by coach Dunga but has been selected to face Italy. With another Milan star, Kaka, ruled out with a foot injury, he hopes to start against the Italians on neutral turf at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
A few months ago when they weren’t playing, it looked as if both stars might miss out on playing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Now they have a great chance to show their coaches why they should be there and the common thread is that the breakthrough happened after they moved to seven-time European champion Milan.
Ronaldinho moved to the San Siro after a disappointing end to his five-year spell with Barcelona, arriving overweight and short of fitness. He worked hard in training, returned to goalscoring form in Serie A and that impressed Dunga who upset many Brazilians fans by continuing to leave him out.
"We knew we would be able to count on him after he got to play more matches with Milan," said the Brazil coach, although those words could well have been Capello talking about Beckham.
After playing as a late substitute in four World Cup qualifying victories, the England star lost his place in a friendly against Germany last November because he was idle.
The Los Angeles Galaxy failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs and Capello stuck to his principal that no player gets into his team unless he is fit and playing competitive football.
Beckham moved to Milan on loan and scored twice in six appearances, Capello flying over to Italy to see him in action for one of the games. He did enough to earn a recall and now the England coach has to decide whether he starts against Spain in Seville where Beckham would tie Bobby Moore’s record of 108 appearances for an England outfield player.
"Beckham is a very important player," Capello said. "His form is OK now. I followed him in Milan. Now he’s fit. You know every player who wants to be in the squad has to play, not only training. It’s important to David, it’s important for us."
Beckham has enjoyed the move so much he now wants to stay in Milan, even though he is barely halfway through his five-year contract with the Galaxy.
Unbeaten in 28 games since its 1-0 loss against Romania on Nov. 15, 2006, Spain doesn’t want England to end that streak.
"This is a prestige match," said Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, who is expected to field Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and Sergi Busquets for the first time. "We are perhaps the best teams in Europe and it will serve as a test."
Brazil-Italy meanwhile brings together two teams who have won the World Cup a combined nine times and Ronaldinho isn’t the only big name returning to action. Italy coach Marcello Lippi is able to recall goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and midfielder Andrea Pirlo from longterm injuries, Lippi has left out veteran striker Alessandro Del Piero who has lost form since the midwinter break.
Spain-England and Brazil-Italy are two of the highlight matches this week as national teams gather for friendly games after a long midwinter break.
France hosts Argentina in another eyecatching matchup while Germany welcomes Norway, Portugal takes on Finland and the Netherlands goes to Tunisia. World Cup host South Africa welcomes Chile to Polokwane, one of the venues for the 2010 championship.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is back on Argentina’s squad having been allowed to skip the 1-0 victory over Scotland in November. Barcelona came to an agreement with Argentina’s football association that Messi would miss friendlies if the club allowed him to play for the nation’s gold medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics.
World Cup qualifying also resumes on Wednesday with Ireland hoping to go level with Italy at the top of European Group 8 by beating Georgia at home. Malta hosts Albania in Group 1 and Northern Ireland goes to San Marino in Group 3.