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England Has Danish Feast

Round of 16: 3-0 victory in rain advances England to a quarterfinal game for first time in 12 years.


When it rains, England scores.

After an entire first round spent searching the desert for a goal in open play, somehow wringing a second-round berth out of a corner kick and a penalty, England's arid offense left the sweltering heat of Osaka for a British-style downpour in northwestern Japan on Saturday against Denmark.

The dark clouds that opened over Niigata's Big Swan Stadium left fans drenched, Danish defenders soggy and the Denmark goal swamped as England poured in goals by Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Rio Ferdinand in a 3-0 victory that moved England into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 12 years.

Owen, the fast-paced striker who hadn't scored in the first 270 minutes of the tournament, finally broke through in the 22nd minute, converting a flick-on from midfielder Nicky Butt.

Heskey, Owen's hulking Liverpool teammate, who had scored only once in 16 appearances for England, latched on to a long feed from David Beckham and hammered the ball under the late-reacting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen in the 44th minute.

Fittingly, it took a defender to kick-start the England attack and possibly shame the forwards into following suit.

Ferdinand, pushing up on an early corner, headed Beckham's service into Sorensen's flailing arms in the fifth minute.

Twisting and falling, Sorensen couldn't hold the ball, letting it slip from his grasp and cross the goal line before he could belatedly knock it away.

The three goals were the most England has scored in a World Cup match since 1990, when the English team defeated Cameroon, 3-2, en route to the semifinals. Saturday's outburst sends England into the quarterfinals, where it will meet the winner of Monday's Belgium-Brazil match.

"I don't think we deserved 3-0," England Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said, "but anyhow, we scored three times and had some other opportunities as well. So I think we deserved to win but maybe not by that scoreline.... Maybe we were a little bit lucky. Maybe 3-0 was too much, but we won it and we are in the quarterfinals."

Owen played only the first half before leaving with a groin injury Eriksson dismissed as relatively minor.

"He did well, he did a lot of work in the first half and he scored with the [wrong] foot," Eriksson said. "He had a small groin problem, so at 2-0 it was not worth risking him. But I think he will be available for the next game."

For Denmark, the undefeated winner of Group A, the defensive lapse was uncharacteristic of the Danes' normally physical, disciplined back line.

"But I thought we reacted very well, we played some good football and had some chances," Denmark Coach Morten Olson said. "However, we didn't [convert] our chances and then just before halftime we made [another] mistake and then the game was over. Because to score three goals against England is nearly impossible."

With a quarterfinal confrontation with Brazil looming, Eriksson said "it will not make any difference" who wins the Belgium-Brazil match.

"I don't know who is going to win--there are two different schools of football, one is samba football, the other is European football, of course," Eriksson said. "I shall sit in front of the TV and watch it very carefully."

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