World Cup Group G
Shearer, Scholes carry England past Tunisia
MARSEILLE, France -- Alan Shearer, England's master goal scorer, and Paul Scholes, Manchester United's international apprentice, opened England's World Cup bid in spectacular style here against Tunisia Monday.
England, who hadn't previously won an opening World Cup tie since Spain in 1982, eased through the first hurdle of France '98 with an emphatic 2-0 victory.
The next two games, against Romania and Colombia in the first round, will be significantly harder but Glenn Hoddle was delighted and encouraged by England's victory over Tunisia.
"We could have scored three or four goals," Hoddle said. "We could have taken them to the cleaners."
What must have particularly impressed
him was the contribution in
the centre of midfield from Manchester United's Scholes, given
the responsibility of replacing Paul Gascoigne and providing England's creative impetus. Scholes, Graeme Le Saux and Sol Campbell were among England's most impressive performers in a match that sadly
unfolded against the background of street violence in the hours before kick-off.
Support for England was vociferous
inside the stadium, packed to its
60,000 capacity on a warm, blustery afternoon, and Prince Andrew was among the VIP spectators.
Hoddle's team, had an element of risk about it, because they had never played together before but they settled quickly to their task.
"We didn't get too stretched as a side and looked fit and strong at the end," Hoddle said. "Our lads played really well. Some of the so-called favourites have found these matches tricky."
Darren Anderton playing wide on the
right in place of David Beckham
immediately looked comfortable and Scholes was a revelation at times in the heart of the team.
Hoddle decided to retain faith with the tried and trusted strike partnership of Shearer and Teddy Sheringham and, it became increasingly apparent that he was right to do so.
Between them Sheringham and Shearer
have scored 18 goals in their
previous 14 starts together, Shearer claiming 11 of them.
Today he reinforced the reputation of the partnership with a superb headed goal just before the interval that finally broke the stranglehold Tunisia were trying to exert on England.
"We have worked on one or two set pieces over the last few weeks and it is always nice when one comes that way," Shearer said. "It was a tremendous ball from Graeme Le Saux and I managed to get my header in. I was delighted."
Although the Tunisians displayed neat touches at times, they were clearly intent on frustrating England.
Bright and elusive Scholes moved the ball about well, giving England attacking options, but it was a long raking pass from Sheringham that presented Hoddle's men with their first real glimpse of the Tunisian goal.
His long ball from out on the left
found Anderton sweeping into the penalty area and although the Tottenham
forward stretched he
could not make a clean contact.
In the 19th minute only a smart interception
denied Scholes a shot from close range but 10 minutes later the Manchester
had an even better chance when he met a Le Saux cross only for goalkeeper Chokri El-Ouaer to parry the ball for a corner.
As England began to stretch Tunisia, Sheringham's crisp volley from outside the area was turned onto the bar by the goalkeeper who then did well, plunging to his left to save again from Scholes. The chunky little United man was involved in everything and moments after he had been brought down in the box -- no penalty ruled Japanese Referee Masayosha Okada -- England deservedly took the lead from a free-kick.
Le Saux chipped the ball into the penalty area where Shearer rose with power to head England's first goal of this World Cup.
England continued to be the more accomplished team in the second half but had to wait until seconds from time to net their second.
Ince created a chance and Scholes made space for himself on the edge of the area before curling his shot into the far corner of the net -- his fourth goal in eight matches for his country.
Tunisia, in its first World Cup game
since 1978, used a conservative attack from the opening kick-off, passing
the ball around midfield as if trying to run out the clock. Occasionally,
there would be a long pass
upfield to either Adel Sellimi or Ben Slimane, but England's defence prevented any real scoring threat.
Tunisia's Polish coach, Henry Kasperczak, brought on three substitutes to try to pick up the pace in the second half. But none of its players showed the ability to finish, and England goalkeeper David Seaman was never seriously tested.
"We came back and played well in the second half," Kasperczak said. ``But we could not create the chances.
"If we lost, it is because England has a very good midfield with a strong link with the two strikers. England is also very dangerous in set pieces."
Sheringham (Owen 85')
Trabelsi H (Thabet 79')
Souayah (Beya 45')
Ben Slimane (Ben Younes 65')
Referee: M Okada (Japan)
by MATTHEW STEELE
SAS force, but not as we know it...
As always, the England SAS force
involved Alan Shearer, he got his head to
anGraeme Le Saux cross from a free kick on the right, and dropped the ball
into the net, after around 41 minutes.
The new member of the elite strike club, however, was young Paul Scholes. On the stroke of 90 minutes, he turned inside two Tunisian defenders, and on the turn curled it into the net. A 2-0 win, and England's World Cup is underway.
England had looked very ordinary for much of the second half, a common sign in a side where none of the players had been to the World Cup before. The only exception, possibly Paul Scholes, who kept popping up in the penalty box, half a yard too slow, or an inch too short each time.
However, as half time approached,
England stepped up the pace. Scholes
heading Le Saux's cross from the left straight at the keeper, and then scuffing a second shot, allowing the diving keeper to save.
Then followed the turn of the old guard - Teddy Sheringham. From the edge of the penalty area, he hit a blinding shot, just dropping onto the bar.
Then came Shearer's goal to liven
up the atmosphere at half time, and allow
every Englishman on the planet to ease a sigh of relief.
For long periods in the second half,
England were very quiet, content to sit
back and allow Tunisia to come at them. They had a few chances, amongst them Sillemi got a shot, but Tunisia rarely looked like scoring. Anderton played in the place of David Beckham, and England missed his corners, crosses and passing, but Paul Ince was exceptional, as were the back three, all prepared to come forward with the ball. England threatened when a cross was dropped on Shearer's head, but not until the 89th minute did England grab their second.
The comparisons with Paul Gascoigne
are bound to follow, but for now,
Scholes will just be glad to get his fourth goal for England, and second in a week, following his one against Caen in the closed training game last week.
The performance wasn't brilliant,
and still needs polishing, but for now
it's a vital three points, that will put the pressure on Romania and Colombia.