World Cup news – day 8…

The nation gnawed at its fingernails for eighty three minutes yesterday evening before Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard finally broke down Trinidad & Tobago’s eleven man defence to send England through to the second phase. In another relatively lacklustre performance, Sven’s men flattered to deceive as they dominated possession without ever really looking in command of the game. Lampard uncharacteristically missed a number of chances, spending much of the game shackled by Chris Burchill and generally looked below par. Joe Cole saw a good deal of possession without creating much of a threat before being replaced by Stewart Downing, but pick of the Chelsea trio was John Terry who marshalled the defence superbly and finally put in the kind of performance for England that the Blue faithful expect to see as standard. Wayne Rooney returned to action when he replaced Michael Owen after an hour and made it through the match unscathed.

With qualification for the next stage now assured, a draw against Sweden in Cologne next Tuesday will see England top Group B which will give them a second phase game against Germany or Ecuador, depending on the result of their match which takes place a few hours before England’s group decider. Despite making their best-ever start to a World Cup with two wins and no goals conceded, the overall feeling seems to be that unless there is vast improvement an appearance in the quarter-finals will be the limit of England’s ambitions in Germany.

Sweden sealed their place in the last sixteen after the second late show of the day saw them defeat a stubborn Paraguay side 1-0 in Berlin. Arsenal’s Freddie Ljungberg scored the only goal of the game in the 88th minute to send Anibal Ruiz’s side out of the competition.

Three Chelsea players return to action today in the second round of games in Group C, the so-called ‘Group of Death’. Hernan Crespo is expected to lead the line for Argentina as they take on Serbia & Montenegro in Gelsenkirchen, while Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben go head-to-head as Holland meet Ivory Coast in Stuttgart. Mexico play Angola in Group D in the final fixture of the day.