WEMBLEY, England -- With England 2-0 down against Croatia, it took David Beckham's arrival in the second half to rally a despondent side and get the jeering fans cheering again.
He sent the ball in for Peter Crouch's tying goal and, at 2-2, it was enough for a European Championship berth.
Then the Croats stunned just about everyone in Wembley with a 77th-minute winner. England will be staying home next June, and Beckham will be staying with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
After the match, he was visibly upset and cut a lone figure on the soggy Wembley pitch as he applauded the fans.
England's most famous player hopes he will be play again at the venue. The 32-year-old midfielder says he isn't contemplating ending his international career, which was initially curtailed by Steve McClaren last summer before he was brought back in May with the qualifying campaign faltering.
"I'm not retiring. I have always said that from the moment I was taken out of the team and the moment I came back into the team," Beckham said. "It's not the players and the team that decides who comes and who goes."
England's campaign would have ended on Saturday, but Israel and Macedonia shocked Russia and Croatia, respectively. That gave McClaren's team two lifelines, which it squandered at Wembley.
"We just didn't perform tonight and that's the end of it," Beckham said after the 3-2 defeat. "We've felt we'd been given that second chance and you have to take them when they're given to you and it was handed to us on a plate like that."
McClaren axed Beckham from the starting lineup to utilize the speed of Shaun Wright-Phillips. But the Chelsea midfielder was shackled by the confident Croats, who had already sealed a place at the 2008 Euros in Austria and Switzerland.
So in a U-turn at halftime, Beckham made his 99th appearance in an England jersey.
It paid off. In the 65th minute, he floated a cross to Crouch, who was able to bring the ball down with his chest before volleying into the net.
The former captain worked tirelessly down the right flank, storming forward to whip balls in the box and scrambling back to bolster the shaky back four on defense.
But Mladen Petric's winner ended Beckham's hopes of playing in a sixth major tournament and perhaps reaching the landmark 100 caps.
Beckham was concerned about letting down the nation that invented soccer, but has won just one major trophy: the 1966 World Cup.
"It will be a summer without seeing the flags out in the streets and seeing the atmosphere around England, and that's going to be devastating for the country," Beckham said. "We all know there are more important things than football in the world, but for us not to qualify for a competition, it's a huge, huge thing and we're disappointed.
"But, like the English way, we have to come back from it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press