Sapporo, Japan: David Beckham's 44th-minute penalty lifted England to a 1-0 victory Friday over old enemy Argentina, leaving the South Americans, one of the favorites to win the World Cup, needing to scramble to reach the second round of 16. Beckham just recovering from a broken left foot that sidelined him for almost two months slotted the ball home with Argentine goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero never moving after Michael Owen was tripped in the area by Mauricio Pochettino. It was revenge for Beckham, who was red-carded in the 47th minute four years ago against Argentina in a World Cup match the English eventually lost on penalties with Argentina reaching the quarterfinals. In an earlier Group F match Friday, Sweden eliminated Nigeria with a 2-1 victory to lead the group with four points. England has four points and Argentina three. Nigeria has two losses and no points. Sweden and England can advance to the second round eliminating two-time champion Argentina with draws in their final group matches. The group ends play Wednesday with Sweden playing Argentina and Nigeria facing England with the top two sides advancing. Argentina pressed early, but as the game wore on was frustrated by England as its defense smothered the South American attacks, seldom allowing it to threatened inside the 18-yard line. Argentina had two great chances to score one in each half but not too much else. In the first half, Gabriel Batistuta got close from 10 meters (yards) and snapped a dangerous header straight into the hands of England 'keeper David Seaman. In the second half and in Argentina's best chance, Pochettino who was called for the early penalty hit a header from about 6 yards that bounced off the ground and slammed into the chest of Seaman who probably didn't seem to see the ball. England looked like it might push the lead to 2-0 early in the second half as it pressured Argentina with Paul Scholes, Owen, Beckham, substitute Teddy Sheringham and Trevor Sinclair all threatening the net. But from about the 70th minute England sensed victory with the team's Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson putting his side into a defensive shell. From then on, Argentina continually ruled the play but was unable to crack through with substitute Pablo Aimar and Ariel Ortega having late chances. World Cup games between Argentina and England have been filled with incident. In 1966, Argentina captain Antonio Rattin was expelled during England's 1-0 victory at Wembley and England manager Alf Ramsey was so incensed by the behavior of their players he refused to let his team swap shirts and described the gifted but temperamental Argentine stars as "animals''. Twenty years later, Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona blatantly scored a goal with his fist and later said it was scored by the "hand of God''. He made up for it by scoring a mesmerising second after an amazing dribble for a goal recently voted the best goal of the last century by FIFA. Four years ago, Beckham was ejected for petulantly kicking Diego Simeone in retaliation to being pushed in the back by the Argentine midfielder. England had to play with 10 men for 70 minutes, including extra time, before going out on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 tie. Lineups: Argentina: 12-Pablo Cavallero; 3-Juan Pablo Sorin, 4-Mauricio Pochettino, 6-Walter Samuel, 8-Javier Zanetti, 9-Gabriel Batistuta (Hernan Crespo 60), 10-Ariel Ortega, 11-Juan Sebastian Veron (Pablo Aimar 46), 13-Diego Placente, 14-Diego Simeone, 18-Kily Gonzalez (Claudio Lopez 64). England: 1-David Seaman; 2-Danny Mills, 3-Ashley Cole, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 6-Sol Campbell, 7-David Beckham, 8-Paul Scholes, 10-Michael Owen (Wayne Bridges 80), Emile Heskey (Teddy Sheringham 56), 18-Owen Hargreaves (4-Trevor Sinclair 19), 21-Nicky Butt. Referee: Pierluigi Collina, Italy.
Topics : Football