England & France make quarter final
England & France both made it into the Euro 2012 quarter finals.
DONETSK - A Wayne Rooney header and a slice of luck when Ukraine was controversially denied an equaliser gave England a 1-0 win over the co-hosts and a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 on Tuesday.
Rooney headed home a Steven Gerrard cross when he was left unmarked at the far post after 48 minutes to celebrate his return to the side after serving a two-match ban.
That was enough to give England first place in Group D and secure a clash with Italy in Kiev on Sunday.
Ukraine, who dominated possession for most of the match, thought they had levelled just past the hour mark when Marco Devic's shot was initially parried by goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The ball looped back towards goal before it was hacked away by defender John Terry, although television replays suggested the ball may have crossed the line.
If it did, England had a huge helping hand from the soccer gods who looked the other way in Bloemfontein two years ago when Frank Lampard scored a 'goal' against Germany in the World Cup.
That effort in South Africa definitely did go over the line although it was inexplicably missed by the referee and linesmen.
England coach Roy Hodgson said Devic's shot on Tuesday had probably crossed the line but told reporters it was about time England's luck turned after they also had a 'goal' harshly disallowed against hosts Portugal in Euro 2004.
"We've suffered with bad luck in the past, against Portugal and Germany, maybe it was a case of if there was going to be luck, we were going to get it."
As if to emphasise that perhaps England's fortunes are turning, they held on to win against the host nation in a major tournament for the first time in six attempts since they beat Switzerland in the 1954 World Cup finals.
Ukraine had to beat England to stay in the tournament but, despite dominating possession for most of the first half, the co-hosts allowed their opponents back into the game after the break just as they had done against France on Friday.
Gerrard, earning his 95th cap, set up Rooney's goal with a cross that via two deflections bamboozled Ukraine's defenders and goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. England have scored five goals in the tournament so far and Gerrard has created three of them.
Hodgson's side are now playing more like a club team than the band of disparates England have often seemed in the past.
FRANCE VS SWEDEN
France coach Laurent Blanc lamented France's lack of sharpness in midfield and defence after they lost 2-0 to Sweden in their final Euro 2012 Group D game on Tuesday, but still reached the quarter-finals.
Although they enjoyed possession against the already-eliminated Swedes, France were toothless in attack and extremely shaky in midfield and at the back.
"We were not strong enough in the tackles. I think Sweden played with a lot of heart, they gave everything, physically they were much better than us," Blanc told a news conference after France sealed second spot in the group on four points behind England on seven.
"We did not suffer up front, we suffered a great deal at the back and also in the midfield. Sweden had a lot of physical impact there.
"I'm going to look at the game again but I think we conceded too much space."
France could have fallen 2-0 down in the opening five minutes when Ola Toivonen and Sebastian Larsson easily got the better of the central defence.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was then allowed too much space in the area to unleash a delightful acrobatic volley into the net nine minutes into the second half.
"We were dominated in terms of tackles, in the air, on the ground, throughout," said Blanc.
"Sweden had a lot of physical presence and we could not fight that."
Asked what he thought of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann Mvila's performances after they were brought into the starting lineup for Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye, Blanc quipped: "I don't like to talk about individual performances, tonight everyone was not at the level we expected."
Mvila, however, never reproduced Cabaye's neat passing and Ben Arfa produced a mediocre performance.
To make matters worse, or perhaps better considering the player's performance, Philippe Mexes picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and will miss the quarter-final clash against Spain.
"It is always annoying to pick up a yellow card when you can avoid it," Mexes said.
"It was 65 or 70 metres from our goal. You have to think about it when you're on a yellow card."
France, however, did not do enough to win even though Blanc said they would have deserved to draw 1-1 or 2-2.
"We were too average in too many areas, we could not hope to win this game," he said.