In front of an enthralled audience, around this Flanders field and in the sitting rooms of England's shires and cities, first-half goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham ensured England's progression.
For a while it seemed England might even avoid Argentina in the second round but Tunisia were unable to hold onto an early lead against Romania in Paris. England will thus meet their old rivals in St Etienne on Tuesday evening.
The victory followed the belated inclusion of Beckham and Michael Owen, both of whom fully justified their selection in a far more positive England line-up.
While England had dropped Teddy Sheringham and David Batty, the Colombians had also made two changes. One was forced, Antonio Moreno coming in for the suspended Jose Santa, but the other was greeted in Bogota with the same hysteria which greeted Owen's inclusion in England.
Leider Preciado is Colombia's Michael Owen. Having scored two goals on his international debut just before the World Cup the 20-year-old came on as substitute in both Colombia's previous two games. He scored their winner against Tunisia on Monday and it was as impossible for Hernan Gomez to leave him out as for Hoddle to omit Owen.
The changes added to the anticipation surrounding the match. As if the footballing stakes were not high enough the atmosphere had been further intensified by regular bulletins of further clashes between fans and police in Lille and Lens following overnight trouble in both those cities and Ostend. As helicopters circled overhead and news correspondents came into the press centre with reports of baton charges and bottle-throwing from the frontline, football seemed a long way away.
Once inside the Felix Bollaert Stadium however, the mood was transformed. This most English of the World Cup grounds - apart from the fences - brimmed with positive expectation. The Colombian national anthem was respected, the British one lustily sung.
There was even a Royal presence, Prince Charles and Prince Harry being among a crowd which, while dominated by English accents, had a higher local French presence than England's previous games. Lens is a football town and local fans had not bought tickets just to sell them on.
The match quickly settled into a pattern. Colombia kept the ball well but sat deep, England marking their forwards tightly and closing down the midfielders whenever they ventured past the half-way line. England's attacks were quicker moving and concentrated on releasing Anderton, who was finding plenty of space on the right.
It took just two minutes for England to test Farid Mondragon. Alan Shearer went up for a long ball from Anderton, it fell to Paul Scholes and his 20-yard drive was scrambled away by the Colombian goalkeeper. Within five more minutes Owen was wide with a falling volley from one Anderton cross and Shearer close from another.
England stepped up the pressure, confident that Colombia, though talented, were no Romania. Le Saux ought to have scored after 18 minutes but put his deliberate side-footed shot, from another Anderton cross, wide. Then came the breakthrough. Owen pressurised the ball on the right, won possession and whipped a cross over, Jorge Bermudez got his head to it but, under pressure from Scholes, could only head it to Anderton near the junction of the six-yard box. His first touch killed the pace on the ball, the second thrashed it into the roof of the net.
England, and their fans, suddenly began to enjoy themselves. Owen, who had drawn several heavy challenges and a booking from Mauricio Serna, was worrying the Colombians with his pace, Shearer with his power. In midfield England began to pass the ball with assurance helped by a fluidity of movement around them that contrasted starkly with the static display in Toulouse.
Owen, who had been given a rapturous reception before the game, shot over after yet another Anderton cross, following good interplay with Beckham, had reached him.
Then Paul Ince, pushing forward, was brought down by Harold Lozano. It was close to 30 yards out but, even high in the Lepanot Tribune you could see the confidence of Beckham's body movement. "He's going to score this time," said a voice nearby. So he did, curling his kick over the wall and inside the near post. It was Beckham's first goal in 17 internationals (compared to Anderton's sixth in 20). It was also one of the first free- kicks to go in during this World Cup. The balls, they say, are too light to control. Not for Beckham last night.
It was conga-time in the stands but stay-calm time on the pitch. England played keep-ball to settle their composure and hold the lead to half-time. Though Freddy Rincon broke away to bring the first genuine save from Seaman, they achieved their goal in some comfort.
Colombia made three changes at half-time but the new recruits, including Middlesbrough's Hamilton Ricard, made no immediate impact as England created five chances in eight minutes. Scholes, released by Owen, brought a fine save from Mondragon. The keeper then denied Shearer's header before Scholes, also from Anderton's cross, struck the base of the post with an overhead kick. Then Shearer, running on to Beckham's raking pass, and Owen, after a bulldozing Campbell run, both forced further Mondragon saves.
Inevitably England could not maintain this pressure but Owen twice went close on the counter-attack, before, in a strong finish, Shearer twice and Adams were denied by Mondragon. Shearer and Scholes were both booked by the erratic referee, but their yellow cards, along with the earlier one awarded against Sol Campell, will not be carried into the second round. The defence remained largely untroubled and the only worry was a bad tackle on Ince's vulnerable ankle that forced him off.
ENGLAND (3-5-2): Seaman (Arsenal); Neville (Manchester United), Adams (Arsenal), Campbell (Tottenham); Anderton (Tottenham), Beckham (Manchester United), Ince (Liverpool), Scholes (Manchester United), Le Saux (Chelsea); Owen (Liverpool), Shearer (Newcastle). Substitutes: McManaman (Liverpool) for Scholes, 77 Lee (Newcastle) for Anderton 80, Batty (Newcastle) for Ince, 83.
COLOMBIA (4-4-2): Mondragon (Independiente, Col); Cabrera (Millionarios), Palacios (Atletico Nacional), Bermudez (Boca Juniors), Moreno (Deportes Tolima); Lozano (Valladolid), Serna (Boca Juniors), Rincon (Corinthians), Valderrama (Miami Fusion); De Avila (Barcelona, Ecuador), Preciado (Santa Fe Bogota). Substitutes: Colombia: Valencia (Independiente, Col) for De Avila, h/t; Aristizabel (Sao Paulo) for Serna h/t; Ricard (Middlesbrough) for Preciado, h/t
Referee: M Arturo Brizio Carter (Mexico).Reuse content