England laboured to an uninspiring goalless draw against Nigeria in Osaka - yet it proved enough to put Sven-Goran Eriksson's men into the last 16.
The real highlight of the afternoon for England fans was not their team's performance but the fact that Sweden had knocked out fierce rivals Argentina in the other group game.
England now face Denmark on Saturday after finishing second in Group F, and Sweden take on Senegal on Sunday.
After the euphoria of the win against Argentina, England were always going to find it difficult to lift themselves for a game where a draw would suffice.
The humid conditions seemed to sap the England players' energy and Nigeria, with nothing else to play for other than pride, made the better start.
Ifeanyi Udeze proved a menace on Nigeria's left, while Benedict Akwuegbu and Julius Aghahowa were a handful for the England defence.
Akwuegbu squandered the Africans' best chance on 35 minutes, opting to go for glory from a tight angle.
But goalkeeper David Seaman was alert to the danger, covering his near post to block the striker's shot.
A minute earlier, memories of Michael Owen's fabulous solo goal against Argentina in France 98 were evoked.
We had more chances today but we couldn't score - perhaps we will save it for Saturday
The striker set off on a dazzling run, leaving a trail of Nigerian defenders in his wake, but Isaac Okoronkwo made a superb tackle to divert Owen's shot although no corner was given.
Despite a lethargic opening, England ended the first half in the ascendancy with the excellent Paul Scholes unleashing a powerful shot.
The ball appeared destined for the top right-hand corner but Vincent Enyeama produced a breathtaking save to palm it onto the post.
Sinclair put in a solid display
After the interval, England provided little to suggest that they would get the breakthrough.
Indeed, that the best performance of the game should come from the increasingly impressive Rio Ferdinand said much about England's display.
Ferdinand marshalled England's defence with an air of excellence arguably not seen since the era of the late Bobby Moore.
Eriksson brought on Teddy Sheringham for the ineffective Emile Heskey, and Darius Vassell for Owen to inject some much-needed pace into the England attack.
And Sheringham almost scored immediately on his introduction, but could not keep his shot down inside the area.
His miss would not prove too costly though given events in the Argentina-Sweden game.
The only concern for Eriksson will be his side's inability to find their way past a defence that is probably not as organised as that which they will encounter against Denmark.
England: David Seaman, Danny Mills, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell,
Ashley Cole (Wayne Bridge 84), David Beckham (capt), Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Trevor
Sinclair, Emile Heskey (Teddy Sheringham 68), Michael Owen (Darius Vassell 77).
Subs Not Used: Wes Brown, Joe Cole, Kieron Dyer, Robbie Fowler, David James, Martin Keown, Nigel Martyn, Gareth Southgate.
Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, Isaac Okoronkwo, Ifeanyi
Udeze, Efetobore Sodje, Justice Christopher, Jay-Jay Okocha (capt),
James Obiorah, Julius Aghahowa, Benedict Akwuegbu, Femi Opabunmi (Pius Ikedia 86).
Subs Not Used: Mutiu Adepoju, Rabui Afolabi, Celestine Babayaro, Austin Ejide, Eric Ejiofor, Nwankwo Kanu, Garba Lawal, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Ike Shorunmu, John Utaka, Taribo West.
Referee: Brian Hall (USA).
MATCH STATS |
| Nigeria | England |
Corners (1st half) | 4 | 5 |
Corners (2nd half) | 1 | 2 |
Fouls committed | 11 | 5 |
Caught offside | 1 | 1 |
Shots on target | 5 | 9 |
Shots off target | 5 | 13 |
Hit woodwork (back into play) | 0 | 1 |
Yellow cards | 0 | 0 |
Red cards | 0 | 0 |
STOPPAGE TIME | |
First half - 1 min | Second half - 1 min |