Before the start of Euro2012, many England fans were pessimistic about their chances of having a successful tournament after being decimated by player injuries and with a new manager who had hardly got his feet under the table. Yesterday’s 3-2 win over Sweden in their Group D matchup, certainly gave us all hope that maybe, just maybe, this tournament might be different.
In a topsy turvy game where both teams had deserved leads, there was no shortage of sparks as the game ebbed and flowed from one end of the field to the other. It was never pretty to watch but totally absorbing and easily the best game to date in this tournament. With players on both sides having played English Premier League football, it was clear that it would be an aggressive, fast paced encounter which resulted in two groups of exhausted players by the final whistle.
England took the lead through a bullet header from none other than the beleaguered Andy Carroll who latched onto a Beckham-like cross from Steven Gerrard and thumped it home. England remained on top for the rest of the half as Sweden, and particularly that overrated Ibrahimovic whose arrogance is galling to say the least, struggled to create anything of note. It looked as if England might try to sit on that lead but they never got the chance as two horrible defensive blunders to start the second half put the Swedes ahead 2-1. Olaf Mellberg was at the center of both goals as England’s defense buckled. It was now a fight to the end as the Swedes had to win this one to avoid going home early. James Milner was struggling mightily out on the right flank and a careless tackle had led to one of Sweden’s two goals. Rightly, Roy Hodgson pulled Milner off and replaced him with Arsenal’s talisman Theo Walcott. Within five minutes of Sweden’s second goal, England were level and 12 minutes from time Danny Welbeck brilliantly guided Theo Walcott’s cross over the line to win the game for England. It should have been four just before the end as Walcott broke away again and Gerrard’s goal-bound volley was parried out by Isaaksson.
Many of Sweden’s players thought that they were the better team in this game but despite England’s continuing passing problems, they were outfought by a team who were finding out what kind of team they really are. Pluses include Welbeck and Carroll who were a constant thorn in Sweden’s side. Steven Gerrard who looked to be getting back to his best, and of course, Scott Parker, who covers so much mileage for an older player. Minuses were Milner, who for me, has exhausted my patience as he is simply not international class, and Ashley Young who seems to struggle in an England shirt still.
For Ukraine, I would drop Milner and Young, and play Rooney obviously, and Walcott. We definitely do not need to go into our shell but at the same time, we have to be mindful that they are the co-hosts and will have tremendous support. The stadium will be rocking and it will not be one for the fainthearted.
After yesterday, I think we’ll be fine.