Hosts give their guests a rude welcomeThe host country of the World Cup remained perfect as Germany closed out first-round play by beating Ecuador 3-0 to clinch first place in Group A. Also early yesterday, England continued its nearly four-decade long streak without a win against Sweden, but a 2-2 draw placed the two teams first and second, respectively, in Group B.
In the knockout round, Germany will play Sweden at midnight Saturday, Korean time. Ecuador will play England early Monday.
In a match between two teams that had already qualified for the next round, Germany treated the sell-out crowd of 72,000 in Berlin to three goals. Forward Miroslav Klose got two tallies to move ahead of Spain's Fernando Torres as the leading goal-scorer of the tournament.
Germany took control from the outset. Klose’s first goal came in the fourth minute off a pass from Bastian Schweinsteiger. The hosts continued to pound the ball, and Klose converted a pass from Michael Ballack in the 44th minute.
Ecuador, the Cinderella of the World Cup so far, rested its top two strikers, Agustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio.
“Our goal was to win the group and we achieved this,” German head coach Juergen Klinsmann told The Associated Press. “We are looking forward to the knockout stage. Our strikers are in really good shape, and they are working hard and scoring.”
With the German victory five hours before its own game, England knew it would have to defeat or tie Sweden to avoid falling to second place in Group B and face the hosts in the round of 16.
England last defeated Sweden on May 22, 1968, and in 11 ensuing matches prior to yesterday’s contest, England lost four and drew seven.
The game started inauspiciously for England. In the second minute, English forward Michael Owen fell awkwardly after a pass and twisted his right knee as he went down. He was taken away on a stretcher, forcing coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to send in Peter Crouch as a substitute. He was hoping to avoid using Crouch since the lanky striker already had one yellow card and another would have ruled him out of a second-round match. However, Crouch did not receive one.
Owen, who returned last month from a broken foot sustained on Dec. 31, will have a scan today, but Eriksson said after the game that the team doesn’t expect him to continue in the World Cup.
England opened the scoring when, in the 34th minute, Joe Cole looped a perfect volley from 27 yards out over the head of goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.
Swede Marcus Allback headed home a cross from Tobias Linderoth in the 51st minute for the 2,000th goal in World Cup history, and then Cole then set up Steven Gerrard for a header in the 85th minute. Swedish forward Henrik Larsson salvaged a draw by stabbing in a low throw-in in the dying moments of the match.
Had Sweden ended up losing by 2-1 and Trinidad and Tobago beaten Paraguay by three goals or more, the Caribbean nation would have been tied with Sweden in points and would have advanced on the goal differential tiebreaker. However, playing at the same time as Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago fell 2-0 to Paraguay, which had already been eliminated prior to the game.
In a Group A game pitting two eliminated teams, Poland beat Costa Rica 2-1 for its first victory at this World Cup.
by Yoo Jee-ho