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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
England march on
Michael Owen's left foot shot beats Thomas Sorensen
Owen scores his first goal of this World Cup
BBC Sport Online's chief football writer Phil McNulty, in Japan

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England's route to World Cup glory is opening up invitingly thanks to the careless hands of Denmark's Thomas Sorensen.

The minor injuries to Michael Owen and Paul Scholes are a cloud over England's celebrations after reaching the quarter-finals with surprising comfort against Denmark.

And with the might of Brazil remaining as potential last eight opponents, much work remains to be done if England and Eriksson's destiny is to be fulfilled in Yokohama on 30 June.

Denmark have been one of the surprise packages in a World Cup littered with shocks - and the incompetence they displayed at the back was another tale of the unexpected.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson
Eriksson's efficient approach is paying dividends

England had the game in their grasp once Emile Heskey opened a three-goal advantage on the stroke of half-time, with the previously miserly Danes distributing gifts with rare generosity.

Eriksson prides himself on efficiency and making the most of what you have, and England's opening 45 minutes epitomised his values.

If possession is nine-tenths of the law, Denmark were guilty of criminal negligence as they enjoyed a 64% share and still saw England disappear out of sight.

England had five shots on target as Niigata's Big Swan swam its way through a first-half deluge of monsoon proportions and scored three goals.

If Eriksson wanted efficiency, then this was it in every aspect.

Sunderland's highly-rated goalkeeper Sorensen cut a sorry figure as England took charge and were able to seal their place in the last eight with something to spare.

Open Quote
The road to glory is open - and England's journey is gathering an ominous momentum
Close Quote

Eriksson insisted he was unconcerned by Owen's - by his own standards - barren streak in front of goal for England.

And he added for good measure that he was not worried that England's goals before they faced Denmark came from a corner and a penalty.

Eriksson is a man England have learned to trust, so it was no surprise when Owen and his colleagues rewarded the Swede's confidence.

Owen was at his predatory best to score England's second after the sorry figure of Sorensen missed David Beckham's corner before throwing Rio Ferdinand's header into his own net for the first goal with only five minutes gone.

Paul Scholes
Scholes has a slight ankle injury

Sorensen then gave Emile Heskey a desperately needed morale-boost by allowing his powerful, but hardly unstoppable, shot to squirm in as referee Markus Merk prepared to blow his whistle for half-time.

It was ironic in the extreme that Owen failed to re-appear for the second half after officially announcing his entrance into this World Cup with a goal.

England will use every second between the moment he left the action and Friday's quarter-final to get their world-class marksman fit.

And Eriksson's satisfaction at a relatively untaxing passage will have been diluted again by the influential Scholes, one of their men of the tournament, leaving the game prematurely.

England will need Owen and Scholes in good health whoever they face next Friday, especially if it is Brazil.

Brazil mix their traditional attacking brilliance with suicidal defending, and Owen and Scholes are the sort of men who will accept any open invitations from the erratic South American rearguard.

As England and Japan fans did a conga in the rain around Niigata, Eriksson will accept the victory gratefully and hope the clouds cast by injury roll away in the same way they did in the skies above the stadium as his team strolled to victory.

The road to glory is open - and England's journey is gathering an ominous momentum as the serious World Cup business begins.


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BBC Five Live's Mike Ingham
"The squad can now watch their next opponents on Monday"
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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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