June 15, 2006

England, Germany, Ecuador all in last 16

By Andrew Gray

BERLIN (Reuters) - England, Ecuador and hosts Germany all
qualified for the knockout stage of the World Cup on Thursday
while Sweden boosted their chances of joining them in the last
16 with a late win over Paraguay.

England booked their place in the second round with goals
from Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard in the last seven minutes
after struggling to overcome Trinidad & Tobago in Group B.

That result, helped by the return of striker Wayne Rooney
as a second-half substitute after seven weeks out with a broken
foot, leaves England on six points and they now need just a
draw against Sweden on Tuesday to clinch top spot.

Ecuador enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 triumph over Costa Rica
in Hamburg, a result that guaranteed them and Germany a place
in the knockout phase with six points each in Group A.

"I'm so happy, this is a happiness that I cannot contain or
even explain," said Ecuador striker Carlos Tenorio.

Thousands of Ecuadoreans clad in their team's yellow colors
poured on to the streets of the capital Quito to celebrate
their first qualification to the second stage of the World Cup.

Soccer-crazed fans hollered "Germany, bring it on," and "We
can do it" with salsa music blasting in the background.

Sweden are second in Group B with four points after an 89th
minute header from Freddie Ljungberg gave them victory over
Paraguay in Berlin's Olympiastadion.

Tens of thousands of raucous yellow-clad Swedish supporters
made the match feel like a home game for the Scandinavian side.

The Swedes are in pole position to claim the second
qualifying spot although Trinidad still have an outside chance.

Th Soca Warriors, who earned a surprise 0-0 draw with
Sweden on their World Cup debut, held firm against England's
attack until gangly striker Crouch headed his team into the

Gerrard then hit a screaming left-foot shot from just
outside the penalty area in stoppage time to make the final
scoreline look more comfortable than it really was.

England captain David Beckham, who laid on the cross for
Crouch's goal, said: "We never give up hope. That is the
message we send."


England had looked sluggish until Swedish manager
Sven-Goran Eriksson sent on talismanic youngster Rooney and
pacy winger Aaron Lennon in the second half.

It was Rooney's first taste of the action since being
sidelined in April by a foot injury which had threatened his
chances of taking part in the finals.

In the next round, England will play Germany or Ecuador,
who beat Costa Rica with goals from Tenorio, Agustin Delgado
and Ivan Kaviedes.

Ecuador's performance has been the perfect riposte to
critics who claimed they were in Germany only because they had
the advantage of altitude in their home World Cup qualifying
games, played 2,800 metres above sea level in Quito.

Ahead of Germany in the table on goal difference, Ecuador
would win Group A with a win or draw in their last first-round
game against the hosts on Tuesday in Berlin.

Sweden struggled against Paraguay despite dominating
possession and found the South Americans' goalkeeper Aldo
Bobadilla in outstanding form.

Ljungberg finally made their advantage tell, heading into
the bottom corner in the 89th minute after substitute Marcus
Allback headed a right wing cross back across goal.

Off the field, it emerged that Brazil striker Ronaldo had
medical tests on Wednesday after complaining of dizziness.

The forward, jeered off the pitch after a lacklustre
performance on Tuesday against Croatia, played down the scare.

"I went to hospital and did a series of tests. They didn't
find anything abnormal," he told reporters.

"Today I feel fine," he added. "It's nothing serious."

Ronaldo's dismal display recalled his dazed performance in
Brazil's 3-0 defeat by France in the 1998 World Cup final.

After that match it was revealed he had been taken ill
hours beforehand, with several reports claiming he suffered a

But Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said he would
stick with the striker for Sunday's game against Australia.

"I think he deserves to continue playing because of what
he's done in the past and because of what he represents for
us," he said.