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FOOTBALL: Rebels find a Turkish cause EN LC; Brothers in arms restore lost pride.

AFTER a week of tub-thumping headlines which included the ludicrous So Much For Pride In Your Country, this was the perfect riposte to those who predicted England would die of shame in Istanbul. They didn't.

Bound together by a blood brotherhood of fierce loyalty, they redeemed themselves in the only way they knew how, by facing the Turkish hordes and refusing to buckle even under the fiercest of challenges.

Watching them winning back their credibility in such a daunting arena wasn 't enou gh to make us forget the fiasco that went before but,by God, it helped.

Nothing gets the Union Flag waving more expressively than when the national team does its job and does it well -especially when the cards seemed stacked against them.

But, equally, nothing gets the blood boiling more violently than when highly paid players threaten to take their ball home.

Saturday night provided the opportunity to forgive as David Beckham defied the shameful baiting by the Turkish team to help engineer a safe journey into the finals of Euro 2004.

Pity the calmness and character wasn't so evident earlier in the week, when the players needed to realise that the strike option was only marginally a better idea than committing mass suicide.

Loyalty is an admirable quality. And Rio Ferdinand will treasureit, while presumably regretting the personal stupidity that caused him to miss a heavily signposted drugs test.

But withdrawing your labour with amassivematchonly days away? Give us a break,lads! Fortunately good sense was eventually seen and when the players -hopefully a little wiser in the ways of the world -strode out into the hellish atmosphere of Fenerbahce's stadium there was an obvious togetherness about them, exemplified by the linked arms as the Turkish fans drowned the British national anthem in a torrent of abuse.

No doubt many of those who most wanted to take on the FA feared the vitriol that would be sprayed on to them if they failed in their duty.

Some writers will be disappointed that they've got nothing further to throw at such an easy target. Some see the fall of England and, just as importantly, the fall of Sven as another easy column that writes itself with the emphasis on outrage.

So what will they do this morning? Rakeover the old ashes? Pretend, veins bulging on their temples, that this changes nothing. That the game is still rotten to the core. Perhaps.

But now they can't accuse anyone of anything, except playing out of their skins for their country.

Which is what England did, the only pity being that they didn't make this their sole aim from the start of the fraught week instead of giving the critics a chance to cast doubt on their ability to fight the good fight.

They'll learn, I hope. For Istanbul showed that these are young men with the talent to make us proud of them, not doubt their sanity.

Proving to the fans exactly what they're about helps the healing process -and none did better than Gary Neville whose image took a battering after he was identified as the Arthur Scargillof the England camp.

Along with the outstanding John Terry and the redoubtableSol Campbell, he erected a wall of defiance that the avid Beckham played a captain's part, so that even the penalty slip was forgivable while Steven Gerrard, who is yet to finish on the losing side for his country, was an immense influence all over the park.

Scholes also shone, his movement and eye for an opening always a feature, though the goals continue to elude him at this level.

Nicky Butt again proved abravecompetitor, allowing Gerrard to probe forward -one of his surges leading to a trip by Blackburn midfielder Tugay, which brought the spot-kick. And what of Wayne Rooney? Advised not to play him by a number of pundits -including Terry Venables -Sven stuck to his beliefs and told the Goodison icon to go out and terrorise -which he did allnight.

Or at least until the 73rd minute, when having run himself into the ground he gave way toKieron Dyer.

Marooned on the bench in recent Everton games,Rooney was clearly hungry for action and zipped around defenders as we know he can.

He was unlucky not to score after a 40-yard pass from Beckham set him free for a run at goalkeeper Rustu.

But with a defender and goalkeeper closing, his chip was a little hurried and landed on top of the net instead of inside it.

Turning provider,he cleverly knocked the ball into Scholes' path only to see him scuff his shot wide from the edge of theTurks,even when they found creativity, were seldom able tobreach.

DavidJames,not always as solid,had a few scary moments as the clock ticked England towards a summer in Portugal, but otherwise this was a night when Sven could lie back and think of Nancy. Or Ulrika. Or ......

Dpenalty box. Always willing to commit defenders, Wayne showed once again how devastating he can be when he focuses on the game instead of on matchofficials.

The presence of the exemplary Pierluigi Collina helped here.

The world's best referee, he had a quiet word with transgressors and saw the yellow card as a hand rarely to be played.

He sorted out both teams after some half-time handbagging, made the mad-eyed Alpay and the deeply offended DavidBeckham (''he said something about my mother'') shake hands and generally put every Premiership referee to shame.

He will never strike, thankfully, and nor did impressive England who were dedicated on this nerve-racking night to make World Cup semi-finalists Turkey look lost.


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: England captain David Beckham celebrates a famous victory (above) whilst Turkish fans wave their flags in vain to lift their team (below)
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2003
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