England booked their passage to the FIFA World Cup finals, but failed to impress in a 1-0 win against Austria, and the press reaction was mixed, celebrating their qualification whilst maligning the way in which it came.
Frank Lampard scored the only goal of the game at Old Trafford, converting a 25th-minute penalty, although after David Beckham had been dismissed, Sven Göran-Eriksson's team were forced to hold on. But the Netherlands' 2-0 win against the Czech Republic means that whether it is England or Poland that finish second in Group 6, they will automatically qualify as one of the two best runners-up.
Must do better
"England won't care they weren't at their best - or that Beckham was sent off for two yellow cards in three minutes," said The Observer. "But they will need to play a lot better if they are to do more than make up the numbers in Germany, though with Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole and Gary Neville to come back there is no reason for pessimism at this stage."
There was little silver-lining for The Sunday Times, however, who accusing the side of shaming themselves with a below-par performance. "A vital victory has seldom been more nervously or unconvincingly achieved than England's was yesterday," they wrote. "Even before the dismissal of David Beckham with more than half an hour to be played, the performance of Eriksson's players was earning nothing but opprobrium for themselves and their manager."
The Sunday Independent were sanguine, looking forward to the return of the suspended Rooney for the Group 6 decider against Poland on Wednesday. "The bare facts were that England won and, as it proved later, qualified for the finals in Germany," they wrote. "Nothing is ever simple with this England team though. It[Lampard's penalty] should have been the signal for England to take command, but that never happened and, with Beckham off, the frustration built. At least Rooney is back to face Poland."
England need to beat Poland in Manchester to claim first place in the section, but speaking to Polish news website www.interia.pl, coach Pawel Janas promised another tough encounter: "Although we've already qualified, I'm not going to give my players an easy week. The England game is important for us so we will be trying as hard as ever."
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