In the most highly anticipated match so far at the 2002 World Cup, England defeated Argentina 1-0 Friday night in Sapporo. The boisterous but peaceful crowd was treated to a hard-fought and physical match. The first good scoring chance went to England's Michael Owen, as he dribbled through three Argentine defenders in the 24th minute before blasting his scoring attempt off the post.
David Beckham scored the only goal of the game on a 44th minute penalty, after Michael Owen was taken down in the box. England had chances to increase the lead early in the second half, but both Owen and Beckham failed to convert. The Argentines attacked the final 20 minutes, but English keeper David Seaman managed to preserve the 1-0 shut-out. Beckham talks about the victory.
"We've done well. We battled really hard," he said. "It's a team game, you know, it's not just about my penalty. I've said it before in other games, the team has been absolutely brilliant the whole 92 minutes."
Sweden has weathered a desperate second-half charge to defeat Nigeria 2-1 for a World Cup victory in Kobe. And in Sapporo, England got a great effort from keeper David Seaman to hold on for a 1-0 win over a fired up Argentina team.
Sweden and Nigeria traded opportunities before the Super Eagles opened the scoring in the 27th minute. Julius Aghahowa converted a cross for the 1-0 lead, then celebrated with a series of back flips.
But Sweden equalized just nine minutes later, as Henrik Larsson dribbled past a pair of defenders for the goal. The wide-open play continued, and Larsson gave Sweden the 2-1 lead in the 62nd minute, as he converted a penalty kick. Despite strong pressure the rest of the match, the Swedes escaped with the 2-1 win, ruining Nigeria's hopes of advancing. Swedish co-coach Lars Lagerback appreciated Larsson's performance.
"I'm really glad for him because as being a good goal scorer as I always say, he also works very hard for the team. And therefore, I'm really glad for his sake that he scored those two goals," he said.
England and Sweden now have four points each, though the Swedes lead Group F by goal difference.
In Jeonju, South Korea Friday, Fernando Morientes scored two goals to help Spain beat Paraguay 3-1. The Spaniards are the first team to post two wins at this year's tournament, and with six points, are virtually sure to advance to the second round from Group B.
In Saturday's only game in Japan, Italy plays Croatia in Ibaraki.