Football: World Cup - Young guns ignite England

Colombia 0 England 2 Anderton 20, Beckham 30 Att: 41,275
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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE found a team and England rediscovered their pride last night as they strolled into the knock-out stages of the World Cup with a comprehensive dismissal of Colombia.

There were only two goals in it, scored 19 and 29 minutes through the first half from Darren Anderton and David Beckham, but England could easily have had five. In front of an enthralled audience, around this Flanders field and in the bars and sitting rooms of England's shires and cities, they produced the best football of Hoddle's two-year reign.

The catalysts were Beckham and Michael Owen, two young men belatedly brought into the team as much by public demand as by the coach. Around them Anderton, a less popular choice, fully justified his inclusion while Shearer played as if liberated.

England will need to play as well again on Tuesday evening, as they will meet Argentina in St Etienne in the second round. For a while it seemed they may top the group and avoid this daunting prospect - Argentina having looked very impressive in beating Croatia earlier in the day - but Tunisia were unable to hold on to an early lead against Romania in Paris.

The only worry for England was an ankle injury to Paul Ince which may make him doubtful for Tuesday. There were also yellow cards from an erratic referee for Paul Scholes and Alan Shearer but, like Sol Campbell's previous caution, these will not be carried into the second round.

Hoddle's inclusion of Beckham and Owen, at the expense of Teddy Sheringham and David Batty, had been copied by Hernan Gomez, who brought in Leider Preciado, Colombia's equivalent to Michael Owen. He was to have a minimal impact but the various changes all added to the heady anticipation surrounding the match.

As if the footballing stakes were not high enough, the atmosphere had been 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, despite the security concerns, 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 and over-elaborated, while England marked their forwards tightly and closed the ball down in midfield. 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 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. Graeme 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 challenge 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 had reached him, following good interplay with Beckham.

Then 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 time to keep calm 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 David 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 saves from Mondragon.

Inevitably England could not maintain this pressure but, were it not for a fine display by Mondragon, Owen, Shearer and Adams could all have had further goals.

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: 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).

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