Needing no more than a draw from their final Group F fixture to make sure of staying "at home'' for their first match in the knock-out stages, a formidable one against Argentina, the holders, on Thursday, England gave the distinct impression that was their ultimate aim. But Michael Owen went one better by shooting the 65th-minute goal that won the game.
England's progress was already guaranteed but by fielding his strongest side, Ted Powell, the manager, had clearly decided that second place in the group, which would have taken his side to Sarawak for a tricky game against France, was not in their best interests.
That is now Mexico's lot but the bonus for them, should they succeed, will be to avoid Brazil until the final. Powell obviously prefers to face Brazil sooner rather than later for if Argentina are beaten, England would then probably face them next.
All of which means that England will do well to tighten their defence. When England belatedly started to come forward Jamie Carragher sent Kieron Dyer away with a sublime pass only for the Ipswich player to let himself down with an awful first touch.
David Lucas, the England goalkeeper, then saved well low down from Omar Avilan before Gerardo Torres shot into the side netting. When Lucas turned creator with a long clearance, Danny Murphy flicked the ball on. Owen was away but the angle was still against him. He made light of that with a lovely low shot that was hacked out by Christian Ramirez only when the ball had travelled a good foot over the line. It was Owen's third goal in as many games.
ENGLAND: Lucas (Preston); Wallwork (Manchester Utd), Curtis (Manchester Utd), Broomes (Blackburn), Shepherd (Leeds), Morris (Chelsea), Jackson (Leeds), Carragher (Liverpool), Dyer (Ipswich), Murphy (Crewe), Owen (Liverpool). Substitute: Crowe (Arsenal) for Shepherd, 87.
MEXICO: Alvarez; Beltran, Ramirez, Hierro, Trujillo (Maldonado, 82), Robles (Mora, 71), Sanchez, Torres, Carino, Avilan, Lillingston.
Referee: F N'Doye (Senegal).Reuse content