Exit Beckham, enter England as Dutch do Eriksson a favour
England 1 Austria 0: Referee is tricked into banishing the captain as Sven's struggling side qualify for finals despite a world of doubters
Sunday 09 October 2005
Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, said after the match at Old Trafford that there could be an appeal to Fifa, the world game's governing body, over Beckham's red card, which followed a raised arm in a challenge on Andreas Ibertsberger and then an alleged trip of the same player a minute later and which left England to play just over half an hour with 10 men.
"From the bench I thought it [the second yellow card] was very, very harsh," the Swede said. "I don't know if he touched him at all but there was no intention - it's very harsh. Maybe we can look at it - Fifa were here today so we will try to talk to them as well."
Regardless of whether or not there is a successful appeal, Beckham's first yellow card after Ibertsberger's theatrical fall, head in hands, meant that he would miss the final qualifying match against Poland on Wednesday. If he was stunned by the Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo showing a card then, he was flabbergasted by the second, flourished as the Austrian lay on the ground. Not that it matters after Holland's 2-0 victory in the Czech Republic last night, which ensured that England will qualify even if they come second in their group behind Poland.
Eriksson was delighted to achieve his aim. "I'm delighted that we now know we will be taking part in the World Cup in Germany next year. Our win today showed the character and determination we have in this group of players. They were focused," he said. And the news also cheered up Beckham, for whom the dismissal brought a dreadful end to an awful week, which began with his son, Romeo, being taken to hospital after having convulsions. "It's been one of the worst weeks of my life because of what's happened to my son. It's been hard," said Beckham, who revealed that his son is "all right". He said: "I thought the first yellow was harsh and the second even harsher." Appeal or no, Beckham said: "I don't think the referee will change his mind."
Nothing is ever simple with this England team. A match with a tense and nervous opening 25 minutes before the goal and even more nail-biting final 30 was settled by a goal from the penalty spot. Peter Crouch, making his first competitive start in the absence of Wayne Rooney, fed the ball to Owen, who was held. It was a close call, but the referee pointed to the spot. Beckham, having fared so poorly with penalties, deferred to Frank Lampard, who sent Jürgen Macho the wrong way.
Surely that was the signal for England to relax and take command, but that never happened and, with Beckham off, the frustration and desperation built. At least Rooney is back to face Poland.
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