Wayne Rooney returned to the England lineup to nod home an opportunistic goal after Steven Gerrard’s cross escaped the Ukraine goalkeepers grasp. Rooney’s tally would be the only one in a match that saw England on the opposite side of the goal line technology debate than they were in the 2010 World Cup versus Germany.
In South Africa England were rightly up in arms when Frank Lampard’s shot clearly crossed the goal line, but no goal was given. Germany went on to win that game 4-2, but it could have been a different game if the correct call had been made.
Today at Euro 2012 with an extra official on each end line, essentially to prevent this sort of thing, Ukraine were the aggrieved party.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart got a piece of Ukraine attacker Marko Devic’s shot, but the ball carried on into the England goal. A hustling John Terry cleared the ball, but replays showed that Ukraine had every right to protest, the ball had indeed crossed the line.
England contend that Ukraine were offside on the play, but that won’t lessen the home teams anger or the calls for goal line technology of some sort. Whether it is a chip in the ball like in tennis, or replays as in most American sports, calls will continue to intensify.
Ukraine had to play without the injured Andriy Shevshenko until the Ukrainian icon made his entrance for the final 20 minutes. The introduction wouldn’t turn the tide however, and Ukraine join co-hosts Poland on the sidelines, while England move on to challenge Italy in the quarter finals.
The days other match featured already eliminated Sweden against France, who came in knowing that they were likely to advance in most scenarios. That proved fortunate for the French who put in a somnambulant effort, while Sweden played like a side with everything to play for.
French manager Laurent Blanc’s line up reshuffle simply didn’t work. The free flowing soccer that the French has shown so far in Euro 2012 was replaced with a plodding, predictable, and frustrating style.
Blanc left Cabaye, reportedly suffering from a slight knock, and Menez out of the team in favor of Ben Afra and M’Vila. The replacements are talented players, but they never jelled with Ribery, Nasri and Benzema, and the French attack stagnated.
Still, at 0-0 at the half, France figured to kick into high gear for the final 45 minutes. Instead it was Sweden, led by the turbocharged performance of substitute Christian Wilhelmsson, that were fired up for this match.
Wilhelmsson immediately began storming down the left wing, unsettling the previously unflappable Debuchy, and pressuring the French defense.
That pressure soon paid dividends. Just seconds after the energetic substitute fed Larsson for a shot that brought a big save from Lloris, Sweden’s superstar Ibrahimavic struck an unstoppable shot to put Sweden ahead.
The imperious Ibra took a cross and hammered a flying side volley that is an early contender for goal of the tournament.
Sweden played a swarming defensive game with great efforts from Jonas Olsson and Mellberg leading the way. Swedish fans have to be wondering where that tenacity was in disappointing losses to Ukraine and England in their first two matches.
Sweden finished this game and their Euro 2012 with a flourish as Larsson banged home a late goal after more good work from Wilhelmsson.
France now limp into a quarterfinal match up with reigning champions Spain, and will need to up their effort and regain that fluid ball moving style that was nowhere to be seen against Sweden if they hope to trouble the Spaniards.