Ruthless McClaren set to axe Beckham and Robinson

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London, Nov 21: England coach Steve McClaren will leave former captain David Beckham and goalkeeper Paul Robinson on the substitutes' bench when his side meet Croatia in their decisive Euro 2008 qualifier at Wembley Stadium today.

Although the team will not be announced until an hour before the 2000 GMT kickoff, the word from England's training camp was that McClaren would play the inexperienced Scott Carson in goal with Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right wing.

Carson, 22, only made his debut for England in Friday's friendly against Austria in Vienna. Wright-Phillips has played in five of England's six internationals this season and has scored twice in the last three matches at Wembley.

McClaren is also expected to recall Gareth Barry in midfield in preference to the fit-again Owen Hargreaves.

England only need a draw to qualify for next year's finals from Group E along with the Croatians, who have secured their place in the 16-team tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

Beckham had been expected to win his 99th cap but an unconvincing display in the 1-0 friendly win over Austria appears to have cost him his place, even though he provided the cross from a corner for Peter Crouch to score the only goal.

Meanwhile, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has criticised the condition of the pitch.

Almost non-stop rain in London for the last two days, plus the damage done to the playing surface by a recent NFL match, has created a poor playing surface, according to Bilic.

''It is not good,'' he said. ''It is very soft on top and hard underneath. It is not good for us but it is definitely not good for England either because they like to pass the ball as well.'' Bilic's only doubt concerns Mladen Petric who has been ill, but the striker's temperature dropped late yesterday and he may be fit enough to play.


UNI

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