David Beckham scores a first half penalty as England draw 1-1 against Sweden in
England 1-1 Sweden
Old Trafford, Manchester
10 November 2001
David Beckham scores a first half penalty as England draw 1-1 against Sweden in an entertaining match at Manchester United's Old Trafford...
This was a 'special' friendly game to thank England's players, staff and fans for the World Cup qualification that was so dramatically and successfully achieved against Greece at Old Trafford in October.
There were some similarities between today's spectacle at and last month's World Cup Qualifier: England could once again thank a viciously struck David Beckham set-piece for securing them a draw despite the fact they never quite hit the peaks of which we know they are capable.
However, those who expected England's latest visit to the Theatre of Dreams to be another story of emotion and suspense may have slightly misjudged the nature of this afternoon's friendly.
England's aim is no longer to qualify for next summer's World Cup Finals - it is to prepare for them. Thus though this draw may not have set the adrenalin pumping like the Greek odyssey, in a broader context the lessons learned today might prove to be just as valuable come May.
Sven-Goran Eriksson's attitude to the fixture was epitomised by his selection in the centre-forward position. With Michael Owen having passed a fitness test on Friday, England's first choice striker was available and ready for action.
However, Eriksson by now knows all he needs to know about Owen: the Liverpool man is a world-class forward that can strike fear into any defence. The England coach knows far less about Sunderland's prolific marksman, Kevin Phillips, and, as he said himself after the game: "It was an ideal time to look at new things."
Phillips was sharp and composed throughout his hour-long performance. He consistently troubled Sweden's well-marshalled defence and combined well with Beckham and Scholes as they burst forward form midfield. Though Eriksson hinted afterwards that there is still more work to be done if Phillips has visions of making that plane to Korea and Japan, the performance of the former Watford man will have certainly done his cause no harm.
The same may be said of the displays of England's latest two trialists in the left-midfield slot, Trevor Sinclair and Darren Anderton. Sinclair was good outlet for the home side and it was his direct surge into the box on 27 minutes that precipitated the penalty which Beckham drove home with awesome velocity and power to give England the lead.
Tottenham's Darren Anderton, who was a second-half substitute for Sinclair on the flank, once again proved that he is a player more than comfortable on the international stage, offering Eriksson another option across the gamut of midfield positions, while the confident performance Liverpool's in-form playmaker, Danny Murphy, also caught the eye.
The England manager was content with the performances of his new charges, believing that a friendly game was the ideal occasion to assess their credentials. He explained: "You can try new players like Phillips, Anderton, Sinclair and Murphy, I think they did well, all of them."
Though England's lead was a deserved one, and despite the best efforts of Robbie Fowler and Danny Murphy, who each went close in the second half, Hakan Mild's 44th minute equalizer - a close range effort after Martyn had parried Edman's low free-kick - proved to the last goal action of the game.
England showed glimpses of their best form in the second half, particularly when former Manchester United teammates Teddy Sheringham, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were able to play the kind of one-touch football that Old Trafford has come to expect.
However, Sweden were always diligent and matched England for work-rate all over the pitch meaning that a draw was always going to be the likeliest outcome.
Though he conceded that more goals and a victory "would have been nice", Eriksson was, as ever, concentrating on the bigger picture when TheFA.com caught up with him after the game.
Today's lessons will stand us in good stead for the greater challenges of tomorrow was the message from England's Swede who said: "You always learn a lot even if it's a friendly. I think we have to try and be much better for June and I'm sure we will."
England: Martyn, Gary Neville (Mills 58), Southgate, Ferdinand, Carragher (Phil Neville 86), Butt (Murphy 58), Beckham, Scholes (Lampard 86), Sinclair (Fowler 58), Heskey (Sheringham 58), Phillips (Anderton 58).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Powell, Keown, Ehiogu, Smith, Walker.
Sweden: Hedman (Kihlstedt 45), Christoffer Andersson, Michael Svensson, Mjallby (Jakobsson 62), Edman, Linderoth (Daniel Andersson 45), Alexandersson (Soderstrom 84), Mild, Magnus Svensson (Anders Svensson 45), Allback, Ibrahimovic (Osmanovski 74).
Subs Not Used: Selakovic, Corneliusson, Aubynn.
Referee: C Colombo (France).