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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT

Sport: Football

Simeone admits faking World Cup injury

Beckham gets sent off to the astonishment of his team-mates

Argentinian Diego Simeone has admitted faking injury to get David Beckham sent off during England's exit from the World Cup in France.

Sports Correspondent, Neil Bennett talks to BBC News
The confession came as the Inter Milan midfielder prepared to meet Beckham's Manchester United in the Champions' League quarter-final at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Beckham was shown the red card by Danish referee Kim Nielsen in Saint-Etienne for kicking out at Simeone, even though the United midfielder barely made contact with his opponent.

[ image: Controversy erupts: Many fans blamed Beckham for the defeat]
Controversy erupts: Many fans blamed Beckham for the defeat
Argentina went on to win the match on penalties while Beckham was blamed by many fans for England's defeat.

Simeone said: "Let's just say the referee fell into the trap.

"It was also a difficult one for him to have avoided because I went down well and in moments like that there's a lot of tension.

"You could say that my falling transformed a yellow card into a red card. But in fact, the most appropriate punishment was a yellow one."

Simeone added: "Obviously, I was being clever. By letting myself fall, I got the referee to pull out a red card immediately.

"In reality, it wasn't a violent blow, it was just a little kick back with no force behind it, and was probably instinctive.

"The referee was right there, just two steps away, and probably punished that intention to retaliate."

Raising the stakes

The Argentinian realises his comments will probably help to turn up the level of vitriol from United fans during the first leg but claimed he enjoys being whistled at by opposing fans.

"I'll be going there willingly, to one of the best football stadiums in the world," he said. "Old Trafford, which I happen to know, is a really marvellous place and I'm delighted to be going back there.

"Obviously, the atmosphere is going to be boiling and I might get whistled. But if that happened, the English fans would only make me happy. I adore it when rival fans whistle at me. It really fires me up."

Ferguson: 'We're ready'

According to United manager Alex Ferguson the quarter-finals clash comes at a perfect time.

For once, United are not beset by injuries - with only Teddy Sheringham ruled out of the match.

[ image: Alex Ferguson: Will field a full strength side]
Alex Ferguson: Will field a full strength side
"I don't think this tie could have come at a better time for us. All our players are fit and playing well," Ferguson said.

But although Inter are virtually out of the Italian league title race, they hope to salvage something from the season by taking the European Cup.

Defender Fabio Galante said: "The facts show that we're a different club in the Champions' League, compared with the league, so we're focusing all our energy on this prestigious competition, convinced that we can win it all."

Ferguson, however, is confident his team will be aware of Inter's strengths after a concerted effort by his back-room staff to keep track of the Milan side's recent form.

"Since the draw was made we have watched all of their games. We have certainly done our homework," he said.

Fully fit

United are expected to bring back Dutchman Jaap Stam to the heart of their defence to partner Ronny Johnsen after a hamstring problem and Andy Cole returns in attack.

Nicky Butt has a slight knee injury and will sit on the substitutes' bench, leaving Paul Scholes to link up in midfield with Roy Keane, who was rested during the first half of Saturday's premier league game with Southampton.

Inter will be hampered by the absence of injured striker Ronaldo but newspapers say the Milan club are planning to have the Brazilian ready for the return in two weeks at the San Siro Stadium.

In Ronaldo's absence, Inter will field a three-pronged attack, with Chilean Ivan Zamorano in the middle flanked by France's Youri Djorkaeff and Roberto Baggio, who appeared in fine form against Juventus on Saturday.

Probable teams:

Manchester United: 1-Peter Schmeichel; 2-Gary Neville, 6-Jaap Stam, 5-Ronny Johnsen, 3-Denis Irwin; 7-David Beckham, 16-Roy Keane, 18-Paul Scholes, 11-Ryan Giggs; 19-Dwight Yorke, 9-Andy Cole.

Inter Milan: 1-Gianluca Pagliuca; 3-Francesco Colonnese, 2-Giuseppe Bergomi, 5-Fabio Galante; 4-Javier Zanetti, 15-Benoit Cauet, 14-Diego Simeone, 8-Aron Winter; 6-Youri Djorkaeff, 18-Ivan Zamorano, 10-Roberto Baggio.

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