xYOKOHAMA, Japan – David Beckham is back and carrying England’s World Cup hopes forward.
After nearly two months recovering from a broken left foot — and four years remembering the sorry end to his last world championship tournament — Beckham’s penalty kick gave England a 1-0 victory over archrival Argentina on Friday.
In the most-hyped game of the first round, Beckham fortified England’s hopes and dimmed Argentina’s.
“We’re buzzing,” Beckham said. “As a footballing nation we’ve waited for this for so long.”
Spain also has waited a long time to prove itself. Trying to shake its image as an underachiever, the country became the first team to reach the second round. Substitute Fernando Morientes scored two second-half goals in a 3-1 victory over Paraguay.
In the day’s other match, Sweden beat Nigeria 2-1, eliminating the Africans. That left Sweden and England tied at four points each atop Group F.
Argentina, among the favorites to win the World Cup, has three points and almost certainly must beat Sweden on Wednesday to advance.
England and Sweden need ties.
Because of his broken foot, Beckham’s availability was in doubt for the tournament. After the long layoff, he lasted just 60 minutes in England’s 1-1 tie with Sweden on Sunday, when his corner kick led to a goal.
With his 44th-minute penalty kick, he gained a measure of revenge for 1998. That year, he was sent off in a game won on penalty kicks as Argentina advanced to the quarterfinals.
After Michael Owen was brought down inside the penalty area, Beckham said the Argentines tried to rattle him before his shot. He ignored them.
“You know we battled really hard, it’s a team game. That’s what it’s about,” he said. “The team has been brilliant, really for the whole 92 minutes.”
England’s red and white colors filled at least two-thirds of the 42,500-capacity Sapporo Dome. Small pockets of Argentina fans banged their drums and waved their blue and white scarves.
Thousands of police braced for trouble, but arrests reported before the game were not connected with hooligan behavior. Police said eight English supporters and one Argentine were arrested on charges such as theft and fraud, while one Briton found on a list of potential hooligans was handed over to immigration authorities.
England erupted in wild celebrations over its first tournament victory against Argentina since 1966.