England 1-0 Ecuador

Today, England were… okay. Nothing more, nothing less. Apart from one fairly horrific error in the first ten minutes from John Terry, England kept them at bay, Beckham’s free-kick was excellent and Rooney improved as the match went on (leading one to believe that he’s finding his range again – something that their next opponents will presumably have taken on board). One has to bear in mind that England are playing with a make-shift team, in a formation that’s unfamiliar to them, and with one player (at least) playing out of position. We can go over the argument about Theo Walcott and and Jermaine Defoe for the five-hundredth time, but it’s old news. Taking all of this into account, they’ve done pretty well to make the second round. England have no obligation to play beautiful football if they’re grinding out results. I would prefer to see them playing badly and winning that playing well and losing.

People are talking about England’s competitors as if they’re inhabiting another footballing planet, but they’re not. Argentina were pushed all the way against Mexico last night. Brazil have had periods that have warranted criticism. Germany were little more than mediocre against Poland, and had to wait until the last minute to score against one of the worst teams in the tournament. Holland only just hung on against an Argentina team that was playing at walking pace and didn’t set the world alight against Serbia. Portugal laboured against Angola.

We’re right to be concerned about England’s state. They have very little on the bench, apart from Aaron Lennon. One more injury could prove to be their breaking point. And they’re not playing beautiful football. But we should remember that football is not scored by judges holding up cards giving points for artistic merit. Anything from now on is a bonus, considering the mistakes that were made in squad selection and the injuries that they have suffered.

Who do we fancy tonight? Well, there’s not a lot between Portugal and Holland.At the time of writing, Portugal are 1-0 up, but down one man, and they’re lucky it wasn’t two, given Luis Figo’s little head-butt a minute ago. More on that to follow.