Media Release

Federation Internationale de Football Association

FIFA Strasse 20, P.O Box 8044 Zurich, Switzerland, +41 (0) 43 222 7777

Beckham boosts new-look England

Sven-Goran Eriksson lived up to the promise that he would lay his FIFA World Cup™ cards on the table.

However, with 11 days remaining until England's opening match against Paraguay, Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over Hungary did little to remove the questions concerning the strength of the Swede's hand.

Go to the England team page

There might have been a fresh 4-1-3-1-1 formation and new roles for Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, but this was the same old, unmistakable England, with strengths and weaknesses that were nothing if not familiar.

Of the former, there was team captain David Beckham serving a timely reminder of just why he remains among the first names on Eriksson's team sheet with a set-piece masterclass, and it looks a safe bet that the Real Madrid midfielder's reliably superb delivery from wide areas will provide rich pickings for his England colleagues in Germany.

Then there was the fact that Theo Walcott made history by coming off the bench to break Wayne Rooney's three-year-old record by becoming, at 17 years and 75 days, the youngest ever full England international. Not to mention the fact that fellow substitute Peter Crouch reaffirmed his status as a worthy 'impact player' by scoring the last, and best, of the home side's three goals.

Gerrard and John Terry – both profiting from Beckham's dead-ball excellence - had earlier headed England into a 2-0 lead, but the Liverpool captain's excellent opening goal failed to disguise the fact that, at times, he looked understandably ill at ease in the role of supporting striker. Threatening sporadically, he struggled throughout to link effectively with the rusty-looking Michael Owen.

"There was a lot of pressure on me tonight, playing in the new position," Gerrard conceded afterwards. "Obviously I'm never going to be as good as Wayne Rooney in that role but I enjoyed playing there. The shackles were off. I enjoyed being able to get free and break forward, and we ended up scoring three good goals."

Eriksson 'happy' with performance

Gerrard had earned England's best chance of a forgettable first half by tumbling to the Old Trafford turf under the challenge of Csaba Feher, but Frank Lampard – normally so dependable from the penalty spot – struck his kick centrally enough to enable Gabor Kiraly to stick out a hand and divert it clear.

Joe Cole then watched his glancing header bounce back off the inside of the post after rising to meet another tantalising Beckham cross, although Eriksson's side were plagued by a problem that has haunted England at many a major tournament: an apparent inability, for all their individual talent, to retain possession and control the midfield.

Little could be drawn, either, from the experimental deployment of Carragher in a holding role because, after a solid 45-minute showing, the versatile Liverpudlian was shifted back to right-back to accommodate the half-time introduction of Owen Hargreaves in place of Gary Neville.

Nevertheless, within four minutes of the restart, England were two in front, Beckham's right boot seeking out the heads of Gerrard and Terry with outswinging and inswinging free-kicks respectively. Hungary struck back in spectacular style just five minutes later with an unstoppable 25-yard drive into the postage-stamp corner from Pal Dardai.

However, a deserved win for England was rounded off seven minutes from time when Cole jinked and twisted his way in from the left before threading a pass through for Crouch, whose instant first touch and inch-perfect right-footed finish even had Eriksson off his bench to cheer his appreciation.

Walcott then threatened to cap his debut with a memorable goal but the fact the Arsenal youngster tugged his shot wide of the far post could not detract from the satisfaction of an England coach who, in hoping for a similar test to that which Sweden will pose in Cologne, felt Hungary had more than lived up to their billing.

"They (Hungary) were even better than I thought, a good side and technically very good," Eriksson said afterwards. "You must have patience against a team defending with nine men behind the ball. We had that and started the second half very well with two goals. I'm happy and I'm sure we'll be playing even better at the World Cup."

England's next and final pre-FIFA World Cup test comes on Saturday, again at Old Trafford, when Jamaica arrive for a match that Eriksson hopes will help prepare his side for facing Trinidad and Tobago on 15 June.