Football: ONE BAD KICK OR ONE BAD TACKLE WILL PUT ME OUT; WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN: England Captain David Beckham Knows He's a Target for Boot boys.(Sport)

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Byline: PAUL SMITH

DAVID BECKHAM is determined to lead England out in their opening World Cup game against Sweden.

His fight for fitness is on track, even though he insists he won't take any risks with his recovery.

He also knows that the minute he sets foot on a World Cup pitch he is a marked man.

No one knows how strong the foot will be in the heat of battle but Beckham realises the opposition will be only too keen to find out.

He knows the hardmen will have him, or rather his left foot, in his sights and just one unfortunate collision - deliberate or otherwise - could end his World Cup.

While other squad members have been taking it easy during a five-day break in Dubai, Beckham has been training alone and stepping up his fitness under the careful guidance of England's medical team.

He said: ''When I broke my foot I knew I had done it straight away and I feared I would be out for three or four months. But I've made great progress in recent weeks.

"I ran for the first time last Saturday morning and although it was a bit sore afterwards I'm told that's what it is meant to be like when you have had a broken bone.

"The surgeons have said a callus - a thickening of the skin - has formed around the bone so it is looking good. But at the same time I know one bad kick or one bad tackle will put me out, I have to be realistic about the situation.

"The friendlies against South Korea and Cameroon are probably too soon for me. I know if I get a kick then it would put me out. But I'm confident that I can go into the Sweden match without a game under my belt.

"At the same time, when I do play I know they'll come looking for my foot, but I'll be keeping that well out of the way.

"But I'm positive about things. I went to Dubai in order to step up my fitness even though it was supposed to be a bit of a break for the players after a long season.

"That side of it has gone well and at the same time I've been doing some acclimatising in preparation for the conditions.

"Most of the treatment I needed on the foot is over now. My main priority is to get myself fit.

"Believe it or not, I have not lost a lot of fitness after the injury but I have put on a little bit of weight, which is not like me. But it hasn't been a problem working that off."

Beckham insists the nerves have eased and England have come to terms with the injuries that threatened to undermine their campaign.

"I'm getting extremely excited, there are no nerves at all," he said. "I'm just firmly focused on that first game against Sweden and getting the right result we need.

"That will be the biggest test for us because it will set us up nicely to secure qualification from the group.

"Of course the injuries have been telling because you're going to miss players like Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville.

"I couldn't begin to think what they are going through at the moment. It is very disappointing not just for us but for them.

"They must be devastated and we all wish them a speedy recovery.

"But we have to move on. Robert Pires is missing from the French squad and I am sure they know they will have to get over it. …