Sven-Goran Eriksson lives to fight another day but his England team do not look likely World Cup winners.
David Beckham produced a long-overdue piece of free-kick magic to sink Ecuador
and book his team into the last eight.
They head north from Stuttgart to Gelsenkirchen on Saturday but no-one will
fear this misfiring team.
Stuttgart is the home of Porsche but England looked more like an old banger
than a luxury sports car, easing through the gears.
An army of fans wait for the moment when the team click and fulfil their
potential - but that moment does not seem close.
Eriksson's men huffed and puffed in the heat to overcome the unfancied South
It might not have happened but for a moment of vintage Beckham on the hour.
Frank Lampard won a free-kick and the skipper stepped up.
Steven Gerrard was screaming for it playing to the back-post where he was
unmarked but Beckham ignored him and sent the ball curling over the wall.
Ecuador keeper Cristian Mora reached it but could not keep it out of the
It was Beckham's first in more than a year for his country and a reminder of
the days when he seemed to win England games on his own.
It made him the first England player to score in three different World Cup
finals and he could not hide his delight.
Beckham had been a target for criticism before the game, after a disappointing
display against Sweden last week.
Sir Geoff Hurst thought he should have been replaced by Aaron Lennon.
Beckham did not have a great game, nor did many of his team-mates, but this
contribution was just as crucial as his penalty against Argentina, four years
Eriksson ripped up his 4-4-2 blueprint and thrust Michael Carrick into his
first competitive England game.
Carrick has barely played recently. He started against Belarus in the B-game,
a month ago, and has played only 23 minutes since, as a substitute against
His task was to sit in front of the back-four and keep possession, slowing the
tempo in the intense heat.
But England seldom look comfortable when they try to slow the pace of the game
Carrick linked up the passes nicely enough in midfield but he is not a natural
His selection seemed to convince the rest of the midfield and the full-backs
that they could stream forward without risk.
But when they did, central defenders John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were left
Ecuador should have stolen the lead in 11th minute when Terry miscued a simple
Carlos Tenorio latched onto Terry's mistake and burst through on goal but Cole
sprinted back and threw himself in front of his shot.
The Arsenal full-back, winning his 50th cap, did enough to divert it onto the
bar and out for a corner.
England breathed again but they struggled to find any rhythm at all, despite
the extra man in midfield.
Easy passes were misdirected and Beckham's dead-ball delivery was terrible
before the break.
Wayne Rooney suffered alone up front in only his second start after injury.
He was a victim of the dreadful service, all too often having to challenge for
a long punt from Paul Robinson with no support anywhere near him.
The team disappeared back into the dressing to a chorus of jeers from their
Eriksson insists he is not the sort of manager to throw teacups around at
half-time but this might have been a good time to start.
The first-half display was as bad as anything so far from England in the
Whatever was said, the Swede made no major tactical changes during the
England came out in the same shape but Beckham's free-kick changed the game in
the 60th minute.
Ecuador hit back briefly and Robinson was forced to make a full-length save
from Luis Valencia.
Rooney started to enjoy more time and space as the South Americans pushed out
for the equaliser.
One jinking run from the Manchester United striker down the England left set
up a wonderful chance for Lampard but the Chelsea midfielder smashed it high
over the bar.
Rooney, who lasted a full 90 minutes, then tried his luck from the edge of the
box but Mora saved to his right.