England 1 Paraguay 0
It was not pretty, it was not exciting, but England ended Saturday with one foot in the second phase of the 2006 World Cup.
Here in Frankfurt, they laboured to a 1-0 victory against Paraguay, thanks partly to an own goal by Carlos Gamarra, but mainly because their opponents lacked the creativity to put England under pressure when the heat took its toll.
When Sweden drew 0-0 with Trinidad & Tobago in Dortmund later that evening, England delighted in the knowledge that just three points from their remaining two group matches will be enough to take them into the knock-out stages.
If they are to make significant progress in this World Cup, however, they will need to improve and learn how to deal with searing heat. Frankfurt resembled Shizuoka in Japan four years ago, when England wilted against Brazil in their quarter-final.
It seems that England's best hopes of World Cup success is rain, and perhaps greater tactical acumen from Sven-Goran Eriksson. Once England lost the initiative on the half-hour mark, they looked disjointed and unsure of how to proceed.
The initial 4-4-2 formation failed because Michael Owen did not look fit up front. The 4-4-1-1 formation in the second half, with Joe Cole just behind Peter Crouch, failed because it seemed alien to the players.
England have the best mid-field in the world but a head coach with no clear idea of how to best to make use of such fortune. If England win the World Cup, it will be in spite of Eriksson and not because of him.
And to think it began so well, when a free kick by David Beckham caused all sorts or problems, forcing Gamarra to head the ball beyond the flailing arms of his goalkeeper, Justo Villar, who, four minutes later, limped off after twisting his knee.
England were so much in control that it did not resemble a World Cup match. Paraguay were dreadful at the start and did not find their feet until the latter stages of the first half.
Paraguay enjoyed the majority of possession in the second half but did not seriously test England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who was grateful for the strength of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the England defence.
Frank Lampard, probably England's best player on the day, came closest to extending the lead with two long-range efforts as Paraguay, talented but weak, pressed for a draw. But, while England were no better than average, they still deserved their victory.
Paraguay offered little to suggest that they can qualify for the second phase. Their flicks, wall-passes, and one-touch football was full of good intentions but naive. England were too strong at the back.
England can start to plan for the second phase, and will probably reach at least the quarter-finals, but there are already signs that Eriksson has taken too few strikers.
There was no obvious replacement for Owen when the Newcastle United striker looked jaded in the second half. Theo Walcott is unproven, Crouch is not a natural goalscorer, and Wayne Rooney is not yet fit. With this in mind, England will surely struggle to score goals. But Eriksson is happy with the configuration of his squad.
"I don't regret what I did picking the team and it was vital to get this win," he said.
"I thought we were finding it difficult to keep the ball so I tried to have a player who could link the ball up a little and Joe Cole did very well in that role."
"I think we lost rhythm, I think we started the second half poorly but I think it got better at the end. I'm sure we will play better and better every game.
"It is a good start. We found it difficult to keep the ball in the second half but we will get better in the next match and it was important to open with three points.
"Four years ago we got a draw in the first match and last time (Euro 2004) lost against France.
"To win the World Cup we will have to play better football but we will. We will have to play 90 minutes like the first 25 but I'm sure we will play better and better every game. It is a good start. You don't realise how hot it was out there."
World Cup history shows that slow starters often do well in the latter stages. Brazil grew into the tournament in 2002, as did France in 1998, Italy in 1982, West Germany in 1974, and England in 1966.
It is where you end up, not where you start that matters. But if England play like this against Brazil or Argentina or Italy or even Holland, they will lose. Paraguay are not a good team and, on this evidence, nor are England. ..SUPL: