Tonight we watched from behind our sofas as Wayne Rooney marked his England return with the goal that secured a place for England in Euro 2012’s last eight – but it was a rough passage eased by helpings of good fortune and controversy against Ukraine.
Ukraine, however, will complain long and hard about a contentious second-half incident when Marko Devic’s shot clearly crossed the line before it was scrambled away by John Terry, only for the officials to remain unmoved. The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.
England will of course regard it as a measure of justice for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup – but it was also an illustration of how they rode their luck for long periods in front of a predictably partisan home crowd in Kiev tonight.
The Ukrainians immediately demanded a goal and their claims were vindicated as replays showed the ball crossed the line before Terry’s intervention.
Before the game manager Roy Hodgson had said England could dream a little – ahead of the confrontation with Italy in Kiev, they can now afford to dream a little more.
But lets not get too carried away! We get so above ourselves in these tournaments and the nation as a whole always seems to think that the England team can win the whole thing! This is quite clearly unlikely to happen while are unable to achieve No.1 status in the FIFA World Rankings. We are currently No. 6 in the world and No. 4 in Europe, meaning the very best we should perhaps be hoping for in this competition is 4th place and anything better than this is a bonus?
Sorry – you might not like that, but it’s true!
When substitute Theo Walcott came on to the pitch against Sweden on the hour mark last night, England were trailing 2-1 and staring defeat in the face – again!
England, who had been leading through Andy Carroll’s bullet header going into the break, conceded twice during a wretched 10-minute period after half-time to leave them deep in trouble. But new manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to replace James Milner with Arsenal attacker Walcott had an almost instant reward.
Within four minutes Walcott collected a cleared corner on the edge of the box and equalised with a 20-yard shot that deceived Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and was a sight to behold – surely a contender for goal of the tournament?
14 minutes later, the England winger burst into the penalty box, went past two Swedish defenders and crossed for Danny Welbeck to flick in the winner – job done!
It was a game-changing contribution from the 23-year-old, who was making his first appearance in a major tournament and scored his first England goal for nearly four years.
Oh yes, and did I mention the fact that he plays for Arsenal?
Here’s what was said by the players and pundits:
“I wouldn’t say I was the game changer. It’s always nice to come off the bench and show what you can do. I’ve been disappointed that I haven’t played.” – Theo Walcott
“I’m happy with the finish and to get three points but it was disappointing to let in two goals. We came back, we stuck together and the team spirit showed.” – Danny Welbeck
“Great game, wonderful result and that customary gut-wrenching feeling of watching England. Nothing quite like it.” – BBC Match of the Day presenter and former England striker Gary Lineker on Twitter
“I think Ashley Young is gonna have to make way for Wayne Rooney.” – Former England striker Ian Wright on Twitter