Euro 2012 took the final step of the group stage with a lot of drama, as England hanged on to an undeserved 1-0 lead after Wayne Rooney scored on his tournament debut while John Terry saved a goal that would have been allowed if we had goal line technology. Meanwhile, Sweden got a meaningless win, 2-0 over France, that just meant the French head into the next stage with more problems than they thought.
England 1 Ukraine 0
Roy Hodgson went conservative. With his choices, with his tactics, at least for one half. The Ukraine pushed and pushed forward with Andriy Shevchenko, but despite a very good first half from Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka, the balls just didn’t go in. Good defending from England with their usual two lines of four and a great day from Joe Hart.
The second half? England opened up and stopped playing just on long balls. They scored a semi-lucky goal, with Gerrard’s cross bouncing off a couple of Ukrainian feet and Pyatov’s hand, right to the waiting and anticipating Wayne Rooney, giving Roy Hodgson another bingo for his pre-game decision.
Joe Hart made a couple of more saves while Pyatov completed another impressive double stop off of Rooney and Ashley Cole. The game went back and forth, and eventually Ukraine did score a goal, but a linesman, a referee and another assistant didn’t see the ball cross the line, with the cameras catching it instead. Goal line technology, anyone? England move on to face Italy, Ukraine leave the tournament without any host nation.
Sweden 2 France 0
So we thought Sweden had no more interest in the tournament. Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he was thinking about the summer and next season, not giving a S%^& about who wins the tournament. Well, a combative match, countering the flaccid French approach and game, with Ben Arfa and M’Vila in the lineup, was good enough for a 2-0 win.
First it was Zlatan with a beautiful aerial finish, probably the best goal of the tournament, off of Seb Larsson’s cross. Larsson himself scored the finishing goal, which didn’t really change the fact that France advanced to the next stage, to face Spain, scoring off a rebound. Sweden ended the tournament gaining a lot of respect for their final performance, while France have plenty of problems suddenly showing up before a very thought quarterfinals, which will be their first match as the underdog in the tournament.
Final Group D Table
1. England, 7 Points (5-3)
2. France, 4 Points (3-3)
3. Ukraine, 3 Points (2-4)
4. Sweden, 3 Points (5-5)
1. Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Mario Gomez (Germany), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) – 3 Goals
2. Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic), Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark), Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres (Spain), Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) – 2 Goals
3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Nikica Jelavic (Croatia), Sean St Ledger (Ireland), Joleon Lescott (England), Samir Nasri (France), Theofanis Gekas (Greece), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland), Pepe, Helder Postiga, Silvestre Varela (Portugal), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Davis Silva (Spain), Jeremy Menez, Yohan Cabaye (France), Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck (England), Olof Mellberg (Sweden), Giorgos Karagounis (Greece), Rafael Van der Vaart (Netherlands), Lukas Podolski, Lars Bender (Germany), Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli (Italy), Jesus Navas (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Sebastian Larsson (Sweden) – 1 Goal
What We’ve Learned
England – Defended well but showed there is more versatility to their attacking option after presenting Wayne Rooney for the first time in the tournament. There will probably be talk of some poetic justice with John Terry saving a goal that should have been allowed, but the main thing now is how to beat Italy.
Ukraine – Like Poland, played well through most of the tournament, but just didn’t have enough to beat better teams. Unlike Poland, their group was much tougher, and Andriy Shevchenko got a very respectable farewell from the national team. Yarmoleno and Konoplyanka probably got a few scouts to scribble hard in their notebooks.
Sweden – No next ronud, but at least a bit of a sweet feeling to take their exit. They did their best to ruin it for France, with a much more committed defensive display and a lot more flair up front, courtesy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson.
France – Didn’t want to end up playing Spain, not that Italy is such a welcoming option, but still. M’Vila didn’t show the promise expected of him while playing instead of Cabaye, and Ben Arfa showed nothing of his Newcastle ability. France were bland, boring and predictable in a very worrying performance.
Czech Republic vs Portugal – Thursday ,June 21, Warsaw
Germany vs Greece – Friday, June 22, Gdansk
Spain vs France – Saturday, June 23, Donetsk
England vs Italy – Sunday, June 24, Kiev