When the keenly awaited news finally arrived, David Beckham could tick one item off his personal to-do list.
With his inclusion in the England squad for a friendly against Spain on Wednesday, Beckham fulfilled the first part of the plan he hopes will take him to the 2010 World Cup. The next step is to complete a permanent transfer from the Los Angeles Galaxy to AC Milan and from then, things should take care of themselves.
Even if the Galaxy do accept an increased offer from Milan over the next few weeks and permit the England midfielder to revive his career at soccer's elite level, Beckham still faces an uphill climb if he is to become a go-to guy for England head coach Fabio Capello.
Sure, his performances in the slower-paced Italian Serie A have been impressive and confounded the critics who insisted his best days were behind him. However, there is still little to suggest that Capello envisions a primary role for the 33-year-old, who, despite his recent efforts during the MLS offseason, could once again be restricted to backup status with England.
Theo Walcott, who's on the recovery route from injury, is the No. 1 choice for Beckham's preferred spot at right midfield, while central midfield offers the head coach an embarrassment of riches. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick would all be above Beckham in the current pecking order for that position.
Capello, unlike Sven-Goran Eriksson, is not going to be star-struck into making Beckham an automatic choice regardless of form or suitability.
The First XI
1. Get him an Advil
Yet again, Luiz Felipe Scolari will wake up Monday morning nursing a headache as he tries to conjure up ways to motivate his underperforming Chelsea players.
The team's performance in its 0-0 home draw with Hull City was completely unacceptable for such an expensively assembled side, as Scolari has been unable to inject any spirit or momentum into the club.
His position looks increasingly shaky, yet his biggest asset right now may be the uncertainty over owner Roman Abramovich's financial situation. Releasing Scolari so early in his contract would cost a fortune.
2. Get him a beer
If the United States struggles for goals against Mexico in the first match of CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifying Wednesday, then fans will once again have cause to lament the decision of Giuseppe Rossi to play international soccer for Italy.
The New Jersey-born striker scored two great goals in Villarreal's victory against Numancia on Sunday and continues to make a splash in Spain.
3. Get him some earplugs
Mexico midfielder Sinha can expect a warm welcome at a frosty Crew Stadium on Wednesday after insisting in an interview that his team were far superior to the United States.
Sam's Army has got its vocal chords warmed up and is ready to give its new hate figure a torrid time.
4. Four corners
• What do you think Michael Phelps and Ronaldo will talk about next time they meet?
• Just how desperate is this Mexican newspaper to spread some voodoo magic?
• What is the Iraqi FA going to put on its advertisement for head coach?
5. Catch a flight to …
Dublin. Yes, there are some good international friendlies taking place this week, but why not take in a contest that means something? The Republic of Ireland's clash with Georgia could have an impact on Group Eight in UEFA's World Cup qualifying and is a good excuse to sink a few pints of Guinness.
6. A round of applause for …
Steve Bennett. The English Premier League referee may not have known he was speaking to undercover reporters when he admitted that several top EPL players ask to be booked so they can miss matches over the holiday period. But at least this issue, suspected by fans for years, has finally been brought into the open.
7. Get them a Kleenex
ESPN. The "worldwide leader" launched an ambitious ploy to gain U.K. broadcast rights to the English Premier League but was outbid by Sky Sports and Setanta.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Bobby Convey. The United States winger was released by Reading last week and is expected to sign a deal with the San Jose Earthquakes.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
Kyle Beckerman. The European transfer window has closed, but sources have told Yahoo! Sports that the Real Salt Lake midfielder attracted attention from two clubs in Denmark recently and that a summer switch is not out of the question.
10. Get excited about …
The return of the UEFA Champions League is only two weeks away and the knockout stage offers a glut of enticing matchups. Liverpool vs. Real Madrid not good enough for you? Well, how about Arsenal vs. Roma, Inter Milan vs. Manchester United or Chelsea vs. Juventus? Roll on the 24th …
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Bianca Kajlich, wife of U.S. star Landon Donovan.