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Beckham free kick silences critics
- England struggles into quarter-finals

Stuttgart, June 25: Tens of thousands of England fans dressed in red and white poured into the city chanting “we’re not going home, we’re not going home”.

They aren’t and all because of David Beckham, who answered critics calling for his scalp with a free kick to lead England to a scrappy 1-0 victory against Ecuador. Beckham curled in the free kick from 35 metres in the 60th minute.

The England captain, who felt sick and was taken off towards the end of the match, said later: “Roberto Carlos (his Real Madrid team mate) sent me a text saying ‘score me a free kick’.”

England fans might want to request the Brazilian to send such a message to Beckham also before the quarter-finals on Saturday.

Beckham became England’s first player to score in three World Cups. His shot was one of the few highlights of a lacklustre match in which neither side was able to carve out clear-cut openings.

If anything, England was fortunate to have held Ecuador to a 0-0 draw at half-time. The South Americans should have been a goal up after 11 minutes when John Terry’s headed interception fell to Carlos Tenorio with only Paul Robinson to beat.

The Ecuador striker took a second too long and his deflected shot, under a challenge by Ashley Cole, hit the bar and flew over.

England, lacking any real bite in a 4-5-1 formation with Wayne Rooney as the lone striker, had to wait 27 minutes for a shot on goal from midfielder Frank Lampard.

England’s passing, which was often poor before the break, failed to improve afterwards.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men, who seemed intent on boring the South Americans into submission, came to life after Beckham’s goal.

Beckham said later he wasn’t feeling well before the game. “But I thought I would be fine and in the first half I felt fine'. But it (the sickness) continued in the second half and it just came out.”

Eriksson said he had no option but to substitute his captain. “He was gone physically.”

England fans would be grateful to the coach for not listening to former players and pundits who had called for the captain to be benched.

“We’re happy. We’ve done our job,” Beckham said.

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