Football: World Cup - Hoddle's tribute to Beckham

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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE claimed after last night's consummate victory over Colombia that he had planned since before the tournament to unleash Michael Owen and David Beckham for this particular game.

The 2-0 success that ensured England will meet Argentina in St Etienne next Tuesday night was anchored by Beckham's first international goal and a typically wide array of his controlled passing skills and by the persistent pace of the Liverpool teenager.

Yet Hoddle remained content that he had not started the duo in the opening two games. The England coach said: "Coming into this tournament we had watched Colombia very closely and earmarked David Beckham and Michael Owen for this game particularly. Colombia play with a flat four at the back are susceptible to the ball over the top. Young David Beckham can purvey the ball over the top and with the pace of Alan Shearer and Michael Owen that worked well for us."

Beckham's tournament has hitherto been overshadowed by the debate over his place in the team. However, Hoddle paid tribute to the Manchester United midfielder's spectacular free-kick, which was calculated by television computer gadgetry to have covered 31 yards at 65mph. "I'm delighted the lad is off the mark as an international player," Hoddle said. "And I'm glad we've scored a couple of goals from set plays now."

He added: "I just felt in the early stages of the tournament he was not quite there mentally, but he is now." Beckham maintained his sights had never wandered from the priority of doing well for England in this World Cup. "I felt I was always focused on my football," he said. "Nothing comes in the way of my football. I just needed the chance to show what I could do. I knew it was my distance as soon as we got the free-kick. I fancied it and I knew that if I got my shot on target it was in. It was a great feeling and it's just nice to get my first England goal. I would say it was my best performance for my country so far as well."

While Darren Anderton gave another impressive display as well as scoring, Owen could have furnished his performance with the goal advantage that it deserved. "Normally when I get through one-on-one, I expect to score," he said. "I didn't tonight but the main thing is the chances kept coming."

Anderton's presence in the side precipitated Beckham's omission and it is fair to say he has restored his credibility. "I'm also delighted with Darren Anderton because he proved a lot of people wrong with the way he played," Hoddle said. "We really could have won that game by four or five if we had taken a few of the chances we created.

The Colombia manager, Hernan Gomez, said: "To be absolutely honest England were the better side, especially in attack.''