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  Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
'Proud' England heading home
David Beckham and David Seaman
Beckham comforted Seaman after the match
As the England team prepare to fly home captain David Beckham has confided that he really thought they would win the World Cup.

He also reiterated his support for goalkeeper David Seaman - who allowed Ronaldinho's free kick to sail over his head for Brazil's winning goal - and said it would be a "disgrace" if he was made a scapegoat.


It was a freak goal and to blame David Seaman would be a disgrace
David Beckham
The squad will leave Japan on Saturday in a specially-liveried British Airways Boeing 777 jet.

It will be a sad homecoming for the team, who were knocked out of the quarter-finals with a 2-1 defeat by a 10-man Brazilian side.

At a press conference before they left their hotel Beckham said: "I've been feeling we would go all the way. I just had a funny feeling we would go all the way and we've not."

Hundreds of fans, both English and Japanese, gathered outside the team's camp on Awaji Island to wave them off on their journey.

Before they left Beckham told a press conference he believed England's fans had been "the best in the World Cup".

He said: "They were excellent, amazing."

Beckham added: "As a team and as a captain we have to thank the fans for the support they have given and we have to thank Japan as a nation because the way they have supported us was amazing."

He also said he was "very proud" of the team's performance.

He said he did not believe 2-1 was a fair result against Brazil.

David Seaman pictured leaving the team hotel with his daughter Georgina
David Seaman pictured leaving the team hotel with his daughter Georgina

"If we had got to the end of the first half one-nil up... I think we might have done it," he added.

The team is expected to leave about 0745 BST and arrive at Heathrow Airport at 2245 BST after the 12-hour flight.

The deciding goal in the Brazil match came when Seaman misjudged Ronaldinho's 40-yard free-kick.

'Freak goal'

Beckham said: "It was a freak goal and to blame David Seaman would be a disgrace."

Sports and leader writers in Saturday's UK newspapers are bowing to Beckham's plea not to make the Arsenal goalkeeper a scapegoat.

Instead they praised the overall performance of the 38-year-old veteran, who apologised to fans after the game.

The Sun said: "Beckham is quite right when he says Seaman should not be blamed. After all, Seaman kept England in the game against Argentina.

"He's a great man who did his best."

Japanese girls bid farewell to England team at Awaji
Japanese girls wave farewell to their England heroes
The Daily Mirror said: "He had nothing to apologise for."

Ronaldinho was later sent off and Beckham said England should have taken advantage of the extra man.

'Not meant to be'

"We should have done better but it was not meant to be. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be," he said.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson said: "We have showed in this tournament that we do not have to be worried about anyone."

He said the players had learned a lot and he singled out Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt for special praise.

"He played coming back from injury, played well in all the games and has been very very useful...he was fantastic," said Eriksson.

Meanwhile Spain - attempting to reach their first World Cup semi-final since 1950 - have kicked off their match with co-hosts South Korea.

Later on Saturday surprise quarter-finalists Turkey and Senegal battle for a dream date with Brazil in the last four.

See also:

21 Jun 02 | England v Brazil
21 Jun 02 | England v Brazil
22 Jun 02 | England

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