NIIGATA, Japan, June 15 (UPI) -- Liverpool strikers Michael Owen and Emile Heskey scored in a first-half torrential downpour Saturday and effectively sealed the outcome as England eliminated Denmark, 3-0, in the second round of the World Cup.
England is set for what could be a classic quarterfinal matchup on June 21 if Brazil can get a win over Belgium on Monday.
"I'm not bothered if we get Brazil or Belgium," said captain David Beckham, who set up two of the goals. "I want to play the best team and the best players. Both are good teams. Whoever we get, we are in the quarterfinals and happy."
England got off to an excellent start when defender Rio Ferdinand was credited with the opening goal after five minutes. Beckham sent one of his classic corner kicks to the far post, where Ferdinand headed toward the goal. Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen was out of position on the corner and as he was getting back to make the save knocked the ball past the goaline.
Owen scored his 16th international goal in the 22nd minute from close range after a play started by Trevor Sinclair on the left flank. Sinclair directed the ball in the middle of the box, Nicky Butt cut in front of Thomas Gravensen to deflect the ball off the Danish player up to Owen. The 22-year-old forward simply turned and had time to pick his spot past Sorensen low into the right corner of the net.
"It's been a long time," Owen said. "I'm excited and had hoped (of scoring.) We don't know who we'll meet yet."
Heskey put the game away on the stroke of halftime with a blast from the edge of the penalty area which went under Sorensen. Danny Mills made a throw-in which defender Niclas Jensen failed to properly clear. The ball got to Beckham, who saw Heskey run in the middle and sent him the ball for a one-timer.
"I was pleased for Emile and Michael," Beckham said. "It was nice for Michael to get his first goal of the competition."
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was pleased with his team's effort.
"Maybe 3-0 is too much, but we scored three times and had some other opportunities as well. We won it and are in the quarterfinals," said Eriksson, who admitted Denmark's goalkeeper had a sub-par match.
He refused to be say who he would rather meet next Friday in the quarterfinals, "Brazil is playing well at the moment and is one of the favorites. It will not make any difference. You have to practice and try to play as we have been playing so far and try to do it better every time.
"It is an open World Cup now. We have given the fans a nice weekend and that is good. We have time to rest and recover, and heal our injuries."
The five days of rest are good news for England. Owen was replaced by Robbie Fowler at halftime with a groin injury and Paul Scholes came out with a twisted ankle.
"Owen has a groin injury, but we think it is not a bad one," Eriksson said. "We think he'll be Ok for the next game. Paul Scholes twisted his ankle, but we do not think it is bad. He should be fine, too."
Denmark had two first-half chances, but could not convert. Ebbe Sand broke loose in the area while trailing 2-0. He turned by Ferdinand before a low finish just wide of the left upright. In added time, Gravensen powered a long range shot which David Seaman stopped.
"That (the early goal) made it difficult because England has a very good defense," Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. "Then, after a quarter of an hour they were up 2-0 because of a mistake in our defense. I thought we reacted very well, we played some good soccer and had some chances. However, we didn't take our chances and then just before halftime we made a mistake and the game was over because to score three goals against England is nearly impossible."
After the break, Denmark forced the issue somewhat but without any luck. Substitute Claus Jensen forced Seaman to make two saves. In the 60th minute, Jensen's shot skipped off the wet grass in front of Seaman who was unable to hold onto the ball as Sol Campbell was there to clear it.
With seven minutes to play, Jensen dribbled by a couple of English defenders outside the box and chipped a shot which Seaman got a hand on and pushed over the net as he backpedaled.
Beckham was on target twice after the break. In the 57th minute he forced Sorensen to palm the ball into a corner with a 20-yard shot. With 10 minutes to play, Fowler send Beckham wide right in the box, but the shot was straight at Sorensen.
England improved to 4
2 in the last six meetings against Denmark. The previous contest was in 1994 when the English posted a 1-0 win at Wembley. Denmark's last success against England was in 1983.