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Euro 2012: Group D - Sweden sent packing, France and England in the drivers seat
Day Eight of Euro 2012 featured a wild lightning and thunderstorm rain delay in France's dismantling of the hometown Ukraine and a highlight reel late winner from England, to knock Sweden out of the tournament. Two second half goals pushed the French to a 2-0 win over the co-hosts in a match that was delayed an hour because of horrendous weather conditions. While a late goal from Dany Welbeck gave England a huge 3-2 victory.
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Edmonton - June 15, 2012 - Day Eight of Euro 2012 featured a wild lightning and thunderstorm rain delay in France's dismantling of the hometown Ukraine and a highlight reel late winner from England, to knock Sweden out of the tournament. Second half goals from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye pushed the French to a 2-0 win over the co-hosts in a match that was delayed an hour because of horrendous weather conditions. While a late goal from Dany Welbeck gave England a huge 3-2 victory in what was one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament but also one of the sloppiest.
Just as they did against France in their opening match, England would open the scoring and once again, thanks to another wonderful ball from Steven Gerrard. The captain sent a beautiful ball from the far right side that landed perfectly on the head of striker Andy Carroll and his uncontested header left the Swedish keeper no chance. Some terrible marking from the Swedes but a thing of beauty for the English side and their supporters.
In what had been a rather uninspiring bit of play through a match and a half of soccer, Sweden finally showed some life to start the second half and were rewarded with an early equalizer. After a less than stellar free kick attempt from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the big man knocked the rebound up to Olof Mellberg and while his strike was stopped by goalkeeper Joe Hart, the rebound ricocheted off English defender Glen Johnson and into the net.
Ten minutes later, Sweden would grab the lead thanks to a timely header from Mellberg and some awful play by the English in their penalty area. Sweden's Sebastian Larsson sent a nice free kick deep into the England box but for reasons that only they would now, not a single player left their feet outside of the veteran Swedish defender, as he easily put away the go ahead marker.
The see-saw affair continued, as substitute Theo Walcott would tie things up five minutes later, with nothing more then a chip shot from outside the area, that somehow beat a stunned Andreas Isaksson. While the goalkeeper may have lost sight of the ball momentarily, that ball simply can't go in.
The addition of Walcott upfront obviously changed the look of Endgland's attack and the diminutive striker's pace was causing havoc for the tall but slow Swedish back line. It was that speed that led directly to the winning goal off the boot off Dany Welbeck.
After the Aresnal speedster darted through the right hand side of the Swedish box, his quick little cross was neatly back-heeled by a spinning Welback into the back of the net giving England back their one goal advantage. An absolute gorgeous finish to what had become one of the sloppiest matches of Euro 2012.
While over in Donbass Arena, the two sides were forced to wait through a lengthy rain delay before getting started. Yet the two sides found themselves on what looked to be, all things considered, a very playable pitch one play resumed. That being said, neither side created much in what was an uneventful opening half of play. That all changed in the second half, as the French came out flying for the final forty-five.
After making a gorgeous run down the left flank, Franck Ribery found Karim Benzema atop the Ukraine penalty area and the Real Madrid marksman wasted little time in finding Jeremy Menez. The PSV man dummied the Ukraine defender right before switching to his left and unleashing a perfect strike to the bottom right hand corner. That gave France their first lead of Euro 2012 and it was a sign of things to come.
Three minutes after Menez gave the French the lead, Yohan Cabaye would double the score line with his fort of the tournament. Another precision pass from Benzema between the centre of the Ukraine defence, leaving Cabaye with an open look at goal and he made no mistake, curling a lovely strike inside the right post and out of the reach of Andriy Pyatov.
While the Ukraine were able to comeback against Sweden from a goal down in their opener, there would be such comeback on this night. France were simply to strong and were clearly toying with the Ukraine's back line during stretches of the second half and the co-hosts had no response. The French's front four of Benzema, Menez, Samir Nasri and Ribery were at their finest, pushing the Ukraine back throughout the match.
The two results leave France and England in a tie atop of Group D with four points a piece and the Ukraine one back, with three points. With their second straight loss, Sweden now joins Ireland on the sideline as the only two teams eliminated from competition after two rounds of games. One would expect the French to grab at least a point from the Swedes in their final group match, meaning they are all but guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals. Which means it will all come down to the England vs Ukraine fixture to determine the final squad to reach the knockout stage of the competition.
Group D – Results and Schedule
06/11/12 – France 1 England 1
06/11/12 – Ukraine 2 Sweden 1
06/15/12 – England 3 Sweden 2
06/15/12 – France 2 Ukraine 0
06/19/12 – Ukraine vs England
06/19/12 - Sweden vs France
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