Roy Hodgson got himself some peace and quiet, even some praise, at least for a few days. England needed a late Danny Welbeck goal to beat Sweden 3-2, ending the Swedes chances in Euro 2012 while France were simply too good for the Ukraine in the post-rain match, winning 2-0 and taking the lead in Group D.
Ukraine 0 France 2
The match started over an hour late due to unusual rains that the ultra-modern Donbass stadium at Donetsk couldn’t withstand, but when it did get under way, it was worth the wait. The Ukrainian side did feel confident, but they didn’t have much to offer besides counter attacks through Yarmolenko and Shevchenko.
Laurent Blanc’s change of putting Jeremy Menez in to give France another dimension on the right wing paid off. They were more dangerous than in the first match against England and Menez was also the one to open the scoring with a clever finish in the 53rd minute. It didn’t take long for the French blitz to finish the job with Yohan Cabaye, probably the best French player on the pitch, getting his due and sending the host nation to try and beat England on the last day of the group stage.
Sweden 2 England 3
The most entertaining match of the tournament so far. No clever tactics from two very straight forward teams that were bent on attacking and scoring goals. England just have more to offer in the 4-4-2 department, with a bit more game changers on the bench, as Theo Walcott proved to be.
Steven Gerrard created a Liverpool connection in the first half to find Andy Carroll high above everyone else, but Sweden scored with crosses they can perform just as well. Glen Johnson, the worst player for England so far in the tournament, scored the first own goal of the Euro and Olof Mellberg added another to complete the comeback and turn the game on its head.
Hodgson simply countered by replacing the fading James Milner immediately after conceding the second goal, creating a much fiercer and faster England front three, which something Erik Hamren didn’t seem to expect or know how to counter. First it was Walcott himself who equalized after 5 minutes on the pitch, and his break set up Welbeck’s brilliant/lucky winner five minutes later.
Group D Table
1. France, 4 Points (3-1)
2. England, 4 Points (4-3)
3. Ukraine, 3 Points (2-3)
4. Sweden, 0 Points (3-5)
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) – 2 Goals
3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Nikica Jelavic (Croatia), Sean St Ledger (Ireland), Joleon Lescott (England), Samir Nasri (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic), 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) – 1 Goal
What We’ve Learned
Ukraine – Introduced the same kind of speed and enthusiasm through the wings that kept pushing the team forward, but when facing a higher quality of midfield and passing style than they encountered in the first match, seemed to be a tad out of their league. Luckily for them, England pose a more direct kind of threat than the clever French one.
France – Having Jeremy Menez, who opened up the field for the French, adding another option on the wing, made life much more easier for France to diversify their passing game, as Samir Nasri delivered one of his best matches for the national team and France all but qualified for the next round, needing a draw against Sweden.
Sweden – Not good enough, not clever enough. Too many attempts through Zlatan Ibrahimovic and just not playing fast enough for most of the match. When they did leave their positions in the back to live up to the attacking promises of Hamren left Isaksson too exposed to the English counter attacking, ending their chances of making the quarter finals.
England – A classic 4-4-2 that worked because Hodgson realized that breaking the mold in this match with someone as exciting as Theo Walcott will bring him the win. It changed England’s formation into something very similar to a 4-3-3 without losing their control in the middle, giving them a deserved and crucial win.
Greece vs Russia – Russia only need a draw they’ll probably get (if not more) to finish (probably) in the first place of the group, while Greece have to win and hope for a draw in the second match.
Czech Republic vs Poland – Very simple. Win or go home. The Czechs can draw the match if Greece lose to Russia.