In tournaments past the English media would already have crowned Roy Hodgson’s team as champions. Now, after a very solid start and needing just one more point to qualify the pessimistic approach to England’s chances persists. So far that’s been a good thing and with less pressure and lower expectations the players have a chance to grow in to the tournament. If they can pick up the point they need tonight against Ukraine the red tops might well take the foot of the hysteria brake. Wayne Rooney’s back available so that makes it all the more likely. The Ukraine need to drastically improve on their limp performance against France to stand any chance. They need to beat England but with Shevchenko injured, where will the spark come from?
In the other game Sweden are already out and, depending on the result in England’s game, Laurent Blanc’s team can even lose and still progress. They’ve looked good so far, particularly Ribery, and should have too much for a dispirited and defensively poor Sweden.
England 1 – 0 Ukraine
France 0 – 2 Sweden
Last words: England may not have looked world beaters but with two wins and a draw they top the group against the more fancied French. They’re now three games away from their first European Championship and although Rooney wasn’t at his best he’ll benefit from getting the playing time and scoring the winning goal.
Rooney’s goal also means the money-back special on this game has clicked. So a very large number of you will be getting bets refunded over the next hour.
France have been the dominant team in each of their three games but they’re struggling to get the goals their attacking pressure should be garnering. That’ll be worrying for Blanc and they’ll need to sort out their finishing to get past Spain.
Hodgson’s unbeaten record continues. Would Harry have done any better? Does anyone care?
Italy next for England. The azzuri are no easy touch but you’d take them over Spain any day. Onwards to the quarter-finals we go.
Good night and good luck.
Full-Time: England have some poor 4th officiating to thank for their win but thanks to France’s failure to make the most of the hatfull of chances they had against Sweden, England would have topped the table with a draw anyway.
Rooney looked a little rusty but he scored the vital goal. England are getting slated on RTE. Eamonn Dunphy has dismissed their chances in the tournament. He’s a pretty poor predictor so you can get England to win Euro 2012 at 9/1.
21.36: France have been battering away at the Sweden defence for much of the second half but their inability to find a scoring touch has been punished by Sweden. england go through as group winners, avoiding Spain.
21.34: Goal!!! Sweden go two up!! Seb Larsson puts the ball away after Holmen’s scuffed volley comes back off the bar.
21.32: Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott race through but the Ox is tackled just as he’s about to put his Arsenal team-mate clear on goal.
21.28: Ukraine are doing their best to get an equaliser but so far it’s not good enough. Shevchenko goes in the book for a lunge on Ashley Young. Oxlade-Chamberlain is on for goalscorer Rooney.
21.26: France go close yet again as Menez pulls a great save from Isaksson. The Arsenal bound Giroud is on for M’Vila. Who may also be Arsenal bound. Giroud gets his head to a corner with his first touch and should have scored.
21.25: Carroll is finally on for the disappointing Wellbeck. A good ten minutes from him could secure a starting place in the quarter-finals.
21.23: In Kiev Nasri was replaced by Menez, Holmenis on for Svensson and Wernbloom comes on in place of Ola Toivonen.
21.22: The Ukraine made a couple of quick-fire substitutions with Serhiy Nazarenko on for Denys Garmash and Bohdan Butko on for Artem Milevskiy.
21.21: Cole is booked for time-wasting. Then Wellbeck gives away a free.
21.20: France are really pouring it on but Sweden are standing strong….just.
Betting Update: Shevchenko to score the next goal is 11/1
21.18: Gerrard’s corner finds Rooney at the back post. It’s a tight angle and the keeper saves.
21.16: Ukraine go mighty close. Konoplienka’s dipping drive confuses Hart who manages to get a hand on it. Lescott reacts quickest to clear.
21.15: France are pushing hard for an equaliser in Kiev but no break-through yet. Just as Gerrard goes in the book for leading with his elbow.
21.12: Walcott comes on for Milner, just as the City man starts to have some joy. Somehow Wellbeck is still playing. He’s done very little tonight. Devic is off and home hero Shevchenko is on.
21.10: Milner does well out right to get a cross in. Rooney challenges Pyatov and forces the keeper to palm the ball to Cole. He gets a shot on which Pyatov has to save.
21.08: Nasri goes close with a shot from distance in Kiev as the Ukraine pour forward in Donetsk.
21.06: It turns out Terry didn’t get to the ball in time. It should be all square in Donetsk. Controversy!! And here comes Shevchenko.
21.05: Goal line clearance from Terry after great play from Devic!! And then England go down the other end where Parker is hacked down on the edge of the box.
21.03: Yarmolenko puts a good cross in to an off-side Milevskiy. The flag doesn’t go up but he heads over when he should have scored.
21.01: Sweden almost go two up. The imperious Ibrahimovic puts Wilhelmsson through but Lloris gets a block in. The resulting corner comes across, Mellberg gets a touch and Lloris makes a spectacular save. It’s all sweden in Kiev right now.
20.57: Goal!!! Ibrahimovic scores. And what a goal too!! He volleys home a cracker to put Sweden up.
20.55: Ukraine have a corner which Gerrard gets clear. He puts Rooney through on goal but Tymoschuk catches up with him. He lays the ball off to Milner but his shot os poor.
20.54: Benzema goes close for France in Kiev just as Hart has to push a dangerous cross over the bar.
20.53: As things stand England go through as group winners and will face Italy.
20.51: Gerrard gets a cross in which Pyatov lets slip under him. The ball pops up and Rooney is on hand at the back post to nod home.
20.50: Goal!!! England puts England ahead.
20.48: England are back under way. Wellbeck hasn’t been taken off…..yet. He needs to score to avoid the hook.
20.45: The RTE boys are being their usual grump-arsed selves at half time. It wasn’t like this in your day was it?
France v Sweden Betting: France 11/10, Sweden 4/1, Draw 7/5
England v Ukraine Betting: England 6/4, Ukraine 3/1, Draw 13/10
20.32: It’s half-time in Kiev too. Toivonen had the best chance of the game for Sweden but other than that it’s been a lot of huff and puff but not enough end product. No goals in group D so far tonight. Could we have our first 0-0 of the tournament? Will two come along at once?
20.31: It’s half-time in Donetsk between England and Ukraine. The hosts had a slight edge in play in the first half but Rooney had the best chance. Hodgson will be satisfied with that.
20.28: Yarmolenko foes slaloming through the England defence. Shades of Maradona ’86 about that. Just a shade though. England manage to clear.
20.24: In Kiev Nasri is taken out by Kallstrom. He looks in a lot of pain and it could be a bad one. He could also be hamming it up. He looks okay to continue
20.21: Cole and Young link up well. Young puts in another dangerous cross but Ukraine get it clear. Garmash then has a poor shot down the other end.
20.18: Devic out wide causes England some problems as the Ukraine push forward. Johnson heads his cross clear.
20.15: In Kiev France have a free-kick 30 yards from Sweden’s goal. Ibrahimovic heads clear. Hardly worth commenting on really. In Donetsk, Yarmolenko has a shot after some good build up play but fails to put sufficient oomph behind the ball and Hart saves easily. That was a decent chance for the home team after a spell of England dominance.
20.13: England in the ascendancy. A cracking ball comes in from Ashley Young out left but Rooney nods wide. He should have scored that one. A little more hair would have done it.
20.11: Gerrard puts another good corner in to the Ukraine box but no one gets on the end of it. Wellbeck has done little so far. Should have started Carroll.
20.10: In Kiev Sweden are having a good go at France. They’ve had the best chance in the game so far.
20.08: Johnson runs forward and wins a free-kick close to the Ukraine box. Gerrard takes the free-kick which causes problems in the box. Rooney goes close and the ball is put behind for a corner.
20.07: Ashley Cole misjudges a bouncing ball and it goes over his head. Gusev gets on to the ball and has a shot which sails a foot over Hart’s bar.
20.06: Gusev puts a cross in from the right, terry heads the ball clear but it ends up back at the feet of a player in yellow.
20.05: England have yet to find their stride in this game but the longer they keep it 0-0 the more frustrated the home crowd will become.
20.03: There’s a roar from the crowd as Ukraine go on the attack. Konoplienka works half a yard to get a shot in from the edge of the box. Terry puts his body in the way.
19.59: Glen Johnson puts a ball in for Andy Carroll which sails over Rooney’s head and is cleared. Pity Carroll isn’t playing.
19.58: England looking a little dodgy in the centre of defense but Parker gets across to block Devic’s shot in the box
19.56: In Kiev, Sweden’s Toivonen wins a header against Mexes, finds himself one-on-one with Lloris, who he rounds only to strike the ball off the base of the post.
19.54: Yarmolenko is almost put through but doesn’t have a great touch allowing Terry to get across.
19.52: Garmash has a crack from long distance. Not long enough as it sails over the bar.
19.50: Ukraine have started the more positively but Hodgson will have been expecting that. England just need to stay calm.
19.48: Is it just me or does Ashley Cole’s new haircut make him look like Mr T’s prison b*tch?
19.47: Konoplienka has the first shot on target for Ukraine. ‘On target’ is quite a stretch as explanations go.
19.46: Both games are under way now. Ukraine make the first foray forward.
19.45: The England fans are heavily outnumbered in Donetsk. Will the atmosphere make a difference?
19.43: Wayne Rooney is the favourite to score first at 9/2. Another bet Paddy will be hoping doesn’t click.
19.40: Gratuitous close-up shots of attractive lady fans done with, it’s on to the anthems. Then back to the ladies.
19.36: France are well fancied in the other game at 4/6. The double on England and France is proving popular too.
19.34:Unsurprisingly we’re seeing a lot of money on England at evens. the support may not be fervent in the media but it sure is on our books. Paddy will be at home in his Ukraine shirt now.
19.29: For a second there I thought someone had given Roy Keane a loan of their sense of humour for the evening…but no.
“We mustn’t in anyway underestimate our opponents…we’ve got a tough game ahead of us,” says Roy Hodgson.
He’s also keeping it simple by hoping Wayne Rooney plays like Wayne Rooney. Keeping it simple has served Roy well so far.
19.22: there are a couple of changes for France and Sweden. Menez and Cabaye are out, Ben Arfa and M’Vila are in for Laurent Blanc’s side. Bajrami and Toivonen replace Elmander and Elm for Sweden.
19.19: I’ve just been fed the stat that Wayne Rooney is the most red-carded England player EVER!!!! An honour he shares with David Beckham. They both have two reds, which is hardly a pattern of behaviour. Rooney’s two came against Montenegro last year and Portugal in 2006 if my memory serves me correctly. He’s also only been sent off three times for his clubs. There’s an additional red against Porto in a pre-season tournament but I don’t count friendlies. Plus it was for elbowing Pepe.
19.14: Nike only released their Rooney ad and someone has already re-edited it.
19.05: Watching mini-montages of England fans highlights how little we’ve heard about them in the press during this tournament. Which is surely a good thing. There’s been minimal trouble with English supporters as far as I’ve seen. No media hype, no trouble from the fans, maybe they can complete the trifecta of unexpectedness by winning the tournament.
19.01: With Ireland gone, there’ll be plenty of people on this side of the water hoping England England progress tonight. Even if it is in secret. Can you cheer a team on silently?
18.49: Less than an hour to go before kick-off and the big news is Danny Wellbeck starting alongside Wayne Rooney and Andriy Shevchenko not starting at all. That’s a blow for Ukraine who will need all the inspiration they can find tonight. Andriy Voronin is also out for the Ukraine. This is less of a blow but he did impress in the win over Sweden. Theo Walcott may have thought he was in with a chance of starting but the harder working, more relaible James Milner is the sensible option.
England v Ukraine:Donbass Arena, Donetsk
Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young, Rooney, Wellbeck
Pyatov, Selin, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Tymoschuk, Garmash, Gusev, Yarmolenko, Konoplienka, Milevskiy, Devic
France v Sweden: Olympic Stadium, Kiev
Hugo Lloris, Mathieu Debuchy, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexes, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Alou Diarra, Yann M’Vila, Hatem Ben Arfa, Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema
Andreas Isaksson, Andreas Granqvist, Olof Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Anders Svensson, Kim Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Emir Bajrami, Ola Toivonen