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Euro 2012: Group D - England take top spot, France draws Spain in quarterfinals
A second half marker from Wayne Rooney, lifted England to a 1-0 win over the Ukraine, while France fell 2-0 to Sweden but still claimed second spot in Group D. The two nations join the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy in the final eight at Euro 2012, which get underway on June 21st.
Edmonton - June 19, 2012 - Group D favourites, France and England, claimed the final two quarterfinal spots at Euro 2012, closing out the group stage of the competition. A second half marker from Wayne Rooney, lifted the English to a 1-0 win over the Ukraine and top spot in the group. While a poor performance from the French coupled with a wonder goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saw the previous group leaders fall 2-0 to Sweden. The two nations join the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy in the final eight at the European Championship, which get underway on Thursday, June 21st.
While England had managed to secure four of a possible six points in their first two outings, they were thrilled to be adding a player of Ronney's quality back into their starting eleven. The Manchester United superstar was far from being in top form but still found a way to put the ball in the back of the Ukraine net, despite watching his team being outplayed for much of the match.
After a poor clearance of a Steven Gerrard corner, the ball would find its way back to the English captain, who promptly delivered a ball through the Ukraine's six yard box. The ball somehow deflected and found its way through goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov’s hands and over to a wide open Rooney, for as easy tap in. Not the prettiest goal England has ever scored but one they were more than happy to take, just three minutes into the second half.
To the Ukraine's credit, they did not allow the unfortunate bounce to get them down and continued to pressure, forcing Joe Hart into making a handful of quality stops. The English keeper produced another timely save off Marko Devic in the sixty-second minute but helplessly watched the ball rebound high into the air and seemingly ready to drop into a wide open goal.
An unbelievable sliding off-the-line clearance from John Terry kept it out, despite protests from Devic. Terry's play was almost to good to be true and upon video review, it was exactly that. Despite the best efforts of the Three Lions central defender, the ball clearly crossed the line and was missed by the goal line official. It's funny how England always finds themselves in the middle of these sorts of situations but on this occasion, the bounce went their way.
Over in Kiev, the French were the front runners to win the group heading into the final day of action. They simply had to take care of Swedish side that had already been eliminated from the competition. Sounded like a perfect situation but one that France were unable to take advantage of. A rather disappointing performance considering what was at stake for Les Bleus.
After a less than enthralling opening forty-five minutes of play, Ibrahimovic would break the deadlock with an absolutely outstanding mid-air side volley, from the top of the French penalty area. After fans were treated to a gorgeous finish from Italian striker Mario Balotelli in Italy's 2-0 victory over Ireland on Monday evening, the Swedish striker's marker was on par or slightly better, than Balotelli's highlight reel finish.
France pushed for the equalizer but were unable to break through and an injury time insurance goal from Sebastian Larsson, sealed the deal The 2-0 victory marked the first time a Swedish side had managed to defeat the French since 1969. It was a costly loss, as they will now have to face the defending champions from Spain in the quarterfinals.
England's victory coupled with the Swede's upset win, means the Group D winners will draw Italy in the other quarterfinal matchup. While the Italians will be no easy task for the English, they will at least have a fighting chance against the Azzurri...which would have likely not been the case against the Spanish.