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England's Beckham still bidding for Oly berth

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LONDON -- David Beckham remains in contention for Britain's Olympic football team after surviving the latest cut in the squad.

Manager Stuart Pearce has slashed his long list of 191 players down to 80 since January as he prepares Britain's first Olympic football team since 1960. The 18-man squad is expected to be named by June.

Beckham, who will turn 37 next month, would be one of three overage players allowed to feature in the squad if he is selected.

The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder has expressed a desire to play at the London Games with his career in the England team effectively over. The former captain made the last of his 115 appearances -- the most for an England outfield player -- in October 2009.

Britain has not fielded an Olympic football team since 1960 because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland feared losing their independence within FIFA. The world body has assured the federations their status won't be affected by participating in the 16-team competition at the London Games, but they have still blocked plans for a combined team, with the Scottish Football Association warning players of a backlash from fans.

Pearce still hopes to include players from across Britain.

The 80-man short list includes Tottenham winger Gareth Bale and Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy from Wales, Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Steven Fletcher from Scotland and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt.

As well as Beckham, four other English players being considered for selection have been disclosed, including another overage player -- Joe Cole, the 30-year-old Liverpool midfielder who is on loan at Lille in France. The three others are Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland, who is on loan at Cheltenham, Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran, who is on loan at Swansea, and Crystal Palace defender Nathaniel Clyne. Britain will field a women's team for the first time at an Olympics. It will be coached by Hope Powell, who has led England since 1998.

Both teams are set to play friendlies in July to warm up for the tournament, which starts on July 25.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2012 C9

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