Atrademark David Beckham free-kick guaranteed Englandís passage to the quarter finals on Sunday, but Sven-Goran Erikssonís men need something more to survive the challenges ahead. As England struggled to score for an hour, Ecuador must have entertained thoughts of stretching the match beyond regulation time. But cometh the hour, cometh the man.
England earned the free-kick on the left edge of the top box, when Edwin Tenorio committed a foul on Lampard. This is Beckhamís territory and the English captain didnít disappoint.
This was what the world was waiting to see ' the ball flying over the wall and dipping into the net, evading the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper. This is what has made Beckham the star and mascot of English football.
But take out the goal, and the rest of Englandís performance was scratchy and unimpressive. In other words, the Beckham free-kick proved to be the difference between the sides, but it hardly concealed his teamís performance which was aimless and pathetic. I shudder to think what would have happened to them had Ecuadorean striker Carlos Tenorio scored in the 11th minute.
England started with a 4-5-1 formation, with Wayne Rooney being the lone striker. With a five-man midfield army, England had more of ball possession, but they lacked any attacking bite.
When there is such a stress on midfield and only one up front, the medios are expected to move fast. After playing four-five passes, at least two of them should come forward in support of the striker.
This being missing in the English performance, Rooney failed to initiate any link-up play with the midfielders.
Both Gerrard and Lampard had a bad day in office, Joe Cole was nowhere near his form against Sweden and Michael Carrick ' who had represented the country only six times in friendlies before Sundayís game ' was clueless about his role as a holding midfielder.
So no constructive move was seen and it all depended on Beckhamís free-kicks, corners and long-balls aimed at Rooney. The ploy turned out to be too predictable to trouble the South Americans. On the other hand, Ecuador should have ended the first session a goal up. John Terryís clumsily headed clearance fell to Carlos Tenorio with only the goalkeeper to beat.
But instead of placing the ball, the striker took a second too long in unleashing a shot, but that time was enough for Ashley Cole to come from nowhere and deflect the ball which hit the bar and flew over. It was the chance which cost Ecuador dear.
Ecuador couldnít match their performance against Poland and Costa Rica, and should have tried to test the English citadel more often than they did. But this is typical of a Ďsmallí teamís mentality, in which playing for draw or tie-breaker is given top priority.
Against such a team, Beckham might have lifted England to the next round, but it will not be enough to lift the teamís spirit as a whole.