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Unconvincing England advances on a Beckham special

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STUTTGART: England captain David Beckham fired his team into the World Cup quarterfinals here on Sunday by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Ecuador.

Beckham curled in a trademark free-kick on 60 minutes to become the first Englishman to score goals in three World Cups.

But the Real Madrid star's first international goal for 13 matches could not mask another lacklustre display from England, which again looked vulnerable at set-pieces and struggled to click in hot, humid conditions at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson's decision to unveil yet another new-look line-up fell some way short of being a resounding success, with Tottenham midfielder Michael Carrick unconvincing in the midfield holding role.

Chasing lost causes

England also looked desperately bereft of penetration in attack, where too often Wayne Rooney was forced to chase lost causes in his unfamiliar role as the lone striker in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

On the odd occasions where England did threaten, poor finishing let the team down, with out-of-form Frank Lampard missing a golden opportunity to kill the game on 73 minutes when he blazed over after a superb cut-back from Rooney.

A lifeless opening 45 minutes saw England fail to create a single meaningful attempt on goal, two tame shots by Lampard and Rooney both easily saved by Ecuador goalkeeper Cristian Mora.

Better finishing from Ecuador striker Carlos Tenorio should have seen the South Americans take the lead on 11 minutes after a dreadful defensive blunder by centre-half John Terry.

Terry slipped and mishit a back-header to Tenorio, who raced clear with only Paul Robinson to beat. But with the England keeper at his mercy, Tenorio took just a fraction too long and his shot was deflected onto the bar courtesy of a superb sliding cover tackle from left back Ashley Cole.

That let-off was symptomatic of an error-strewn start by England, and the defence looked at sixes and sevens only moments later when an Ecuador free-kick created panic in the six-yard box.

Neither Terry nor Rio Ferdinand looked comfortable at set-pieces, and Robinson also failed to convince whenever the ball was crossed into the box, most notably when he flapped at a cross just before the break.

Despite several renditions of `God Save The Queen' from England's fans during the half, nothing could stir Eriksson's men from their torpor and they looked grateful after the final whistle.

Line-ups:

England: Paul Robinson, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard (Stewart Downing, 90th), Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, David Beckham (Aaron Lennon, 87th), Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole (Jamie Carragher, 77th), Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick.

Ecuador: Christian Mora, Ivan Hurtado, Ulises de la Cruz, Edison Mendez, Agustin Delgado, Segundo Castillo, Luis Valencia, Giovanny Espinoza, Neicer Reasco, Edwin Tenorio (Christian Lara, 69th) and Carlos Tenorio (Ivan Kaviedes, 72nd). Agencies

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