With Michael Owen already back in England nursing ripped cruciate ligaments in his knee, England's strike force was looking a bit depleted for this crucial game. Against Ecuador, Eriksson opted to go for a 4-5-1 formation, with Rooney the lone striker. Michael Carrick got his first start of the tournament at the expense of Jamie Carragher, Hargreaves was pushed back into defence with Gary Neville still injured, and Gerrard returned to the starting line-up after coming on as a substitute against Sweden due to him acquiring a yellow card in a previous match (a further yellow card in the match against Sweden would have resulted in Gerrard sitting out this game). With the temperature around 35C, that factor alone was going to prove difficult for the Three Lions.
Well, a shock for England in the 11th minute and a wake-up call perhaps for Eriksson's men when Hurtado broke free of his marker (a mistake by Terry) and was one-on-one with Robinson. Fortunately the speed of Ashley Cole who dashed in to tackle Ecuador's captain saved England's blushes with the ball blasting off the crossbar. This match was not going to be as easy as first thought.
It took 15 minutes for England to have their first on-target goal and Rooney's shot was not worth getting excited about. To be honest there was not much to write about during the first half, with the exception of a couple of promising attacks from England and a few attempts from the South Americans. With the second half under way. England played a bit better but still made hard work of their opponents. Relief for England came in the 60th minute thanks to a trademark Beckham free-kick. Thank goodness for his free-kicks, despite critics having doubts over Beckham's performances recently. Beckham curled the ball around the wall and into Ecuador's net, with Mora seemingly getting his fingers to the ball but it wasn't enough to prevent England taking the lead.
Beckham was getting all the attention three minutes later when he threw-up on the field. Apparently England's captain was ill prior to the game and was still feeling the effects during the match. Despite the illness, Beckham still managed to hussle Ecuador's players when they were on the attack. Ecuador made Robinson make a save in the 65th minute thanks to an attempt by Valencia. There was a nice move from Rooney when he broke free from Hurtado, but his efforts were wasted when he played a nice ball back to Lampard. The Chelsea player sent the ball sailing over the bar in what looked to be a promising move.
There was concern over Paul Robinson, late in the game, when he was on the pitch holding his leg. He was able to continue playing. While Ecuador did keep pressing for the equaliser, nothing materialised and England left Stuttgart with the win and will go on to the quarter-finals to play either Portugal or Holland (a game being played later today). England will need to play better football to win their quarter-final match. Thankfully this match did not go into extra time which would have zapped a lot of energy from the players in the heat and humidity. Hopefully there will be a break in the heat in time for England's match next Saturday.
Post match note: England will play Portugal in the quarter-finals.
Robinson #1, Hargreaves #16, Terry #6 (captain when Beckham substituted), Ferdinand #5, A Cole #3, Beckham #7 - captain (Lennon 87 mins - #19), Carrick #18, Gerrard #4 (Downing 90+2 mins - #20), Lampard #8, J Cole #11 (Carragher 77 mins - #15), Rooney 9.
Subs Not Used: James #13, Carson #22, Campbell #12, Bridge #14, Crouch #21, Jenas #17, G Neville #2 (injured), Walcott #23. (Full Squad)
Mora #12, De la Cruz #4, Hurtado #3 - captain, Espinoza #17, Reasco #18, Valencia #16, E Tenorio #20 (Lara 69 mins - #7), Castillo #14, Mendez #8, Delgado #11, C Tenorio #21 (Kaviedes 72 mins - #10).
Subs Not Used: Villafuerte #1, Ambrossi #13, Ayovi #15, Benitez #23, Borja #9, Guagua #2, Lanza #22, Perlaza #5, Saritama #19, Urrutai #6.
England Goal: Beckham (60 mins)
England Cautions: Terry (18 mins), Robinson (78 mins), Carragher (82 mins)
Ecuador Cautions: Valencia (24 mins), C Tenorio (37 mins), De la Cruz (67 mins)
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)