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Ryan Ross On June - 16 - 2012

Euro 2012 Match Report: Sweden 2-3 England

This was an evening which threatened to see England implode in a cloud of smoke and with it their Euro 2012 hopes. Two goals in quick succession had spun the wheel of fate in Sweden’s favour and Roy Hodgson was left looking on with as his men attempted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

That this outcome did not occur was simply astounding. England’s best qualities came to the fore and an unlikely hero rode to their rescue. England are a team renowned for their grit and determination, but lacking in guile and class. Danny Welbeck scored the winning goal, with a sensational flick to guide the ball into the far corner of the goal. It was a finish which had the guile of a Spanish forward. It will be an endearing memory of Euro 2012 long after the tournament is finished.

England’s real hero on the night was the young Theo Walcott, who made an almost immediate impact to level the score at 2-2. Manager Roy Hodgson deserved much credit for making the decision to introduce Walcott. His presence forced the Swedish defence to fall back and stretched England’s play. Hodgson’s faith in Andy Carroll was rewarded too, with the Liverpool striker an imposing presence throughout. It was a proud evening for English football. Despite the manner in which Glen Johnson conceded an own goal, with Olof Mellberg scoring a header from another set-piece, they survived. They can now look to a final match against Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine, safe in the knowledge that a draw would see them through to the knock-out stages.

England will have their talisman Wayne Rooney back, having atoned for kicking the Montenegrin Dzudovic in England’s qualifying match last October. They will hope Rooney can ignite the attack and provide the guile Ashley Young lacked when operating in the no. 10 role against France. Ukraine themselves will be demoralised having lost to the French 2-0 earlier in the day. They were dull going forward and woeful defensively. England’s array of attacking options will relish testing themselves against the likes of Oleh Gusev and Taras Mikhalik. Expect a high scoring match.

England have concerns over their attack too. None of their forwards, Rooney apart, are vastly experienced on the international stage. Welbeck and Carroll are two prime examples. And yet the pair have so far risen to the occasion when called upon in Ukraine this month. Hodgson knew Sweden are prone to conceding from an aerial threat and his selection of Carroll supported this view. When the former Newcastle man headed in England’s first goal, Hodgson must have felt an immense sense of satisfaction.

England were able to utilise Carroll’s physical strength and aerial threat to great effect. But this goal also displayed Carroll’s footballing intelligence. He peeled away from the full-back to find space behind Mellberg and headed in with ease. It was a goal any great no.9 would have been proud of, be it Gary Lineker or Alan Shearer.

Ironically Steven Gerrard’s cross for the goal was identical to an earlier free-kick he supplied for Joleon Lescott against France. Both were deep crosses which found their intended target perfectly. Few players are capable of delivering such a cross, in previous years David Beckham could be seen doing a similar thing. But it also demonstrates the threat England can pose to teams who do not defend effectively when facing them. The Swedes shouldn’t have allowed Gerrard the time or space to find Carroll and he punished them.

England were demonstrating a confidence rarely seen. Quick and clever passing focused around the duo of Parker and Gerrard helped to retain possession. They also threatened when Welbeck glanced a header wide of goal. The chance came from a Milner cross and Welbeck will have been disappointed not to have hit the target. Scott Parker then drew a strong save from Isaksson with a long range effort.

Both sides reached half-time with England in a commanding position. Their strategy had worked to great effect and Sweden had created little in terms of clear-cut chances. The looming threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been kept quiet, largely due to clever tackling by Johnson and the English defence’s refusal to be bullied by the Swede. However, fate determined that England weren’t to enjoy a comfortable evening.

It took a mere two and a half minutes for Carroll to haul down Kim Kallstrom on the edge of England’s penalty area with a rough hewn challenge. Ibrahimovic lined up the free-kick, sure of testing Hart’s goal. His attempt rebounded off the wall, straight into his path. A mishit volley drove the ball into the melee of players, where Hart palmed it into an onrushing Glen Johnson who knocked it into his own net. England had thrown their lead away. 1-1.

On the 57th minute, Milner felled Olsson to concede another free-kick. England, already reeling from Johnson’s own-goal, were about to experience another state of crisis. Larsson floated the ball into the six-yard area, where Mellberg soared to head past Hart. The goal would pain Hodgson as the defence left Mellberg unmarked, it was a free header. In truth the goalkeeper could have done little to prevent the goal and his centre-backs should have dealt with the threat.

But England still had their grit and determination to guide them through. Terry went close to scoring with a powerful header, but Isaksson had the strength to tip the ball over the bar. Moments later the substitute Walcott found himself on the edge of the area and the ball at his feet. He instantly looped the ball over the Swedish defence and Isaksson was left with no chance of saving the shot. England had made it 2-2.

England’s redemption came with 13 minutes remaining of this dramatic tie. Walcott burst down the right with a trademark run, leaving two markers behind him. He hit a low, swift pass across the goal mouth. Welbeck was ready in waiting and spun around to flick the ball in with the back of his right foot. England had done it. The score board read 3-2 and they had saved themselves from humiliation.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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