Nothing more to say really….

Nothing more to say really….

England out on penalties

England out on penalties

England suffered penalty agony once more as Italy won a shoot-out after the Euro 2012 quarter-final finished goalless in Kiev.

Italy were vastly superior to England over the course of 120 minutes – but the resilience and organisation that have swiftly become the trademark under new manager Roy Hodgson took an enthralling game to penalties.

And, as on five of the previous six occasions England have entered this sudden-death environment, they were left heartbroken, with Italy confirming a semi-final meeting with Germany in Warsaw on Thursday.

England captain Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney were successful from the spot, but Ashley Young struck the bar and Ashley Cole’s effort was saved by Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Mario Balotelli scored Italy’s first spot-kick but Riccardo Montolivo’s miss gave England hope that was cruelly snatched away as Andrea Pirlo audaciously chipped in his spot-kick and Antonio Nocerino coolly slotted home before former West Ham midfielder Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive penalty.

England cannot complain that the better team did not emerge as winners – but even in the face of a constant wave of Italian attacks Hodgson’s men still showed enough heart and durability to make their Euro 2012 exit with pride.

As Italy subjected them to what was almost torture by possession, England’s back four and goalkeeper Joe Hart responded magnificently by erecting a wall of defiance, with John Terry outstanding.

England will head for home on Monday after a campaign they can reflect on with a measure of satisfaction despite the disappointment. Hodgson – at short notice – marshalled his forces effectively but the gulf in class with Italy was clear and his team looked jaded long before the end.

Hodgson will now take stock of events in Ukraine, where England drew with France and won against Sweden and Ukraine to top Group D, as he plots the qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Hodgson picked England’s first unchanged team since the miserable last-16 encounter with Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – a show of faith in the side that beat Ukraine in Donetsk.

England were almost given the worst possible start when, after a prolonged period of possession, De Rossi’s swerving left-foot volley hit the post with Hart stretching in vain to make contact.

If this was an ominous start for England, they responded with an opportunity of their own when Glen Johnson found space in the area but could not get sufficient power in his shot and Buffon was able to claw the ball away.

England’s opening spell had been their best of Euro 2012. It was almost capped with a goal in the 13th minute when the dangerous Johnson crossed for Rooney but he could only glance a header over the top.

Balotelli had been his usual combination of threat mixed with moments of infuriating slackness. He was slow to react to the peerless Pirlo’s pass and allowed Terry to make a fine recovering tackle, then forced his Manchester City team-mate Hart into a save from a low effort.

England had lost the measure of control they had exerted for a spell, but there was still much to encourage Hodgson, particularly when Rooney opened up Italy’s defence and Danny Welbeck should have done better than sidefoot wide from the edge of the area.

Balotelli was again involved as he closed in on Antonio Cassano’s header six yards out but was left hacking at the post in frustration as Terry and Joleon Lescott combined to clear.

Italy continued to control possession after the break and England were fortunate to survive a chaotic incident in which Hart saved from De Rossi and Balotelli before Montolivo diverted the rebound over the bar.

Hodgson knew he needed to shift the momentum away from Italy and he chose to try to do it with a double substitution on the hour, replacing Welbeck and James Milner with Andy Carroll and Theo Walcott.

Both were involved as England managed to unsettle Italy, only for Young’s close-range effort to be deflected following muscular work from Carroll.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli introduced Diamanti in an attempt to pierce England’s stubborn resistance and he swiftly forced Hart into a smart save.

The game continued to absorb into the closing seconds of normal time as Johnson produced a crucial block to stop Italian substitute Nocerino, while Rooney almost stole the win for England with an overhead kick at the other end.

England made a quick change in extra time as Jordan Henderson replaced Scott Parker but Italy still held the initiative, with Diamanti’s attempted cross bouncing of the upright to safety.

Nocerino then had the ball in the net with a header as penalties loomed, but it was rightly ruled out for offside.

So it went to penalties – and a familiar tale of woe as England were again the victims of this cruelest form of defeat.

England Through To The Quarter Finals !

England Through To The Quarter Finals !

Wayne Rooney marked his England return with the goal that secured a place in Euro 2012′s last eight – but it was a rough passage eased by helpings of good fortune and controversy against Ukraine.

England manager Roy Hodgson instantly restored Rooney after a two-match suspension in place of Andy Carroll with orders to make a belated mark on the campaign after sitting out the draw against France and victory against Sweden.

And after missing a simple header in the first half, the Manchester United striker ensured England topped Group D to set up a quarter-final meeting with Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

England could have met world and European champions Spain but that eventuality was avoided by Sweden’s 2-0 win against France, and Rooney’s first goal in a major tournament since scoring twice in the 4-2 victory over Croatia in Lisbon at Euro 2004.

Ukraine, however, will complain long and hard about a contentious second-half incident when Marko Devic’s shot clearly crossed the line before it was scrambled away by John Terry, only for the officials to remain unmoved.

The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.

England will regard it as a measure of justice for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup – but it was also an illustration of how they rode their luck for long periods in front of a predictably partisan home crowd.

But once again Hodgson’s men found a way to get the result they required and there is a real air of respectability about their campaign even though they had to survive a first-half siege from a Ukraine side desperate for the win they needed to progress.

Oleg Blokhin’s side lost the talismanic Andriy Shevchenko to the substitutes’ bench because of a knee injury but still showed enough to put England through real turmoil in spells.

A lack of match sharpness was perhaps to blame for Rooney squandering England’s best chance after 27 minutes.

It appeared he only had to make clean contact with Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young’s cross to score but his far-post header lacked conviction and went tamely wide of keeper Andriy Pyatov’s goal.

Either side of Rooney’s fluffed chance, it was a tale of Ukrainian domination as they attacked England down both flanks and showed the greater fluidity of the teams.

Scott Parker was desperately urging England’s players to keep possession – but it was easier said than done amid waves of Ukraine attacks and it needed a penalty area block from the Tottenham midfield man to thwart Devic.

England keeper Joe Hart had to save smartly from the dangerous Andriy Yarmolenko, who also raised the hopes of the Donetsk crowd as he evaded several challenges in the area before running out of space.

However, Rooney made no mistake with his second headed opportunity, Steven Gerrard’s delivery from the right once again the creative source. The cross took two deflections and slipped from the grasp of Pyatov for a simple far-post header from the Manchester United striker.

The crowd was momentarily silenced but Ukraine refused to lose heart – and they were robbed of an equaliser when once again an effort that had crossed the line was not spotted by officials.

Artem Milevskiy should have done better than send a header wide but the real controversy came when Hart partially stopped Devic’s effort and Terry desperately scrambled back to hook the ball off the line.

The Ukrainians immediately demanded a goal and their claims were vindicated as replays showed the ball crossed the line before Terry’s intervention.

There was still time amid the drama for Ashley Cole to almost mark his 97th cap with a goal but the erratic Pyatov made a fine recovery save after another inelegant attempt to deal with a cross.

With 20 minutes left it was time for the entrance of Ukraine’s great sporting icon Shevchenko.

He received a thunderous ovation as his country looked to him to rescue their Euro 2012 campaign but it was a task beyond even the veteran striker, who was soon booked for a rash challenge.

Before the game manager Hodgson had said England could dream a little – ahead of the confrontation with Italy in Kiev, they can now afford to dream a little more.

England Knock Out The Swedes

England Knock Out The Swedes

Predictable? Stereotyped? Up yours Jonas Thern :)

England came from behind to beat Sweden for the first time in a competitive fixture after their Euro 2012 campaign flirted with danger in a thriller in Kiev.

Andy Carroll’s superb first-half header allowed England to establish comfortable control – but poor defending allowed Olof Mellberg to score twice and put Sweden ahead before the hour.

England manager Roy Hodgson required inspiration and found it in the shape of substitute Theo Walcott as the Arsenal attacker turned the game around with a spectacular equaliser and a penetrating run to set up Danny Welbeck’s deft winner with 12 minutes left.

Hodgson’s side had been derided in some quarters for their conservative approach in the opening 1-1 draw with France but there could be no complaints about the entertainment value on offer here in Ukraine – although not all of it was intentional or admirable.

He will take heart from England’s positive response to adversity but will be hugely concerned that trouble came as the result of a collective lapse of defensive concentration that gave Sweden an all-too-easy route back into this contest.

England know a draw against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk next Tuesday will put them through to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, but they will face a team with ambitions of their own in that direction in what will be a hostile atmosphere inside the Donbass Arena.

Hodgson’s plan was clear and was revealed by Carroll’s recall. Sweden’s defence had a weakness in the air and England were intent on probing it.

England’s first threat came from midfield man Scott Parker when he saw his rising 25-yard shot clawed away by Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

And there was a hint of things to come when Welbeck rose to meet James Milner’s cross but his glancing header was weak and lacked the direction to trouble Isaksson.

When England broke the deadlock it came from a move that was straight from Hodgson’s strategy both in creation and execution.

Gerrard’s cross from the right wing was met by the soaring figure of Carroll as he got in between Andreas Granqvist and Mellberg to power a header past Isaksson.

Sweden were carrying few attacking threats, although the ease with with Zlatan Ibrahimovic brushed Parker off the ball and then won a straight race with a ponderous-looking John Terry were causes for concern.

Kim Kallstrom shot just over after Glen Johnson lost possession and Hart had to dive at the feet of Johan Elmander as the Swedes attempted to restore equality before the break.

After looking relatively settled, England were set back by a scrappy mess of an equaliser for Sweden four minutes after the restart. Ibrahimovic’s free-kick, conceded needlessly by Carroll, was not cleared and allowed Mellberg to bundle the ball into the net via Hart’s hand and an attempted clearance by Johnson.

Sweden had emerged with a sense of purpose they never showed in the first half and were ahead just before the hour – but once again England were guilty of defending in a manner that manager Hodgson will find unacceptable.

Mellberg was allowed to rise unmarked amid a mass of dozing defenders to meet Seb Larsson’s free-kick and send a downward header past Hart as England’s players looked bemused at the fate that had befallen them.

Hodgson’s reaction was to introduce Walcott for Milner and it was a change that reaped a rich reward as the Arsenal attacker player a decisive part in England’s recovery.

Walcott’s swerving finish brought England level after 64 minutes then his darting run into the area and cross allowed Welbeck to apply an instinctive back-flick finish.

In the closing moments captain Gerrard could have given the scoreline a more convincing appearance but Isaksson did brilliantly to block his close-range volley.

The victory was secured, but Hodgson and England will be well aware they flirted with danger courtesy of their own carelessness

England delusional – ex-Sweden captain Jonas Thern

England are too “predictable” and “stereotyped” to beat Sweden on Friday, according to their opponents’ former skipper Jonas Thern.

England drew 1-1 with France in their opening game while Sweden were beaten 2-1 by Ukraine, but Thern believes the Scandinavians are the better team.

“The one shot towards the France goal over 90 minutes was all it took to ignite the chronic English illusion of world football supremacy,” he said.

“Their style of play is predictable.”

Thern, who won 75 caps for his country and helped them to finish third at the 1994 World Cup, believes England are not good enough – despite being impressed with their appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager.

England have never beaten Sweden in seven tournament clashes, and Thern is backing his countrymen to extend that impressive record.

“I said before the Euro finals started that Sweden would beat England and I stand by that statement despite the horrific display against the Ukraine,” said the former Benfica, Napoli, Roma and Rangers midfielder.

“England’s performance [against France] had none of the quality they like to boast it had.

“France had 15 shots on goal compared to England’s one.

“England has historically struggled against Sweden as they cannot capitalise on our strength, which is the physical game.

“Sweden does not fear this style of football in ways that other teams do.

“The only thing that could have been better for the Swedish team would have been if the manager position had been handed to somebody other than Roy as he is a very competent manager with substantial international experience.”

Sweden have problems of their own, however, with coach Erik Hamren being forced to deny he called his players ‘cowards’ following their defeat to Ukraine.

“I did not call my players cowards,” he said. “[But] we were playing a little cautious, we didn’t show the aggression I wanted to see.

“I think some of the players were nervous in the first half, but we played a good game in the second half.”

Sweden conceded two headed goals against Ukraine and, with England’s strength being in the air, their defensive capabilities are expected to be severely tested.

However, Blackburn Rovers left-back Martin Olsson is not worried by his side’s perceived weakness.

“When you look at the players the team England have, with [Joleon] Lescott and [John] Terry, they have strong players in the air – but so have we,” he said.

“The last couple of games, we have lost our concentration at set-pieces but we have been working on that and we have to deal with that in the right way against England.

“I don’t see it as a problem.”

….I hope we make this wanker eat his words.

 

EURO 2012 Sweden v England Preview

EURO 2012 Sweden v England Preview

England has a point won against France, and Roy Hodgson did well and managed to create a competitive team very quickly, even without Rooney. This will be the last match of his ban before he comes back against Ukraine. The Swedes haven’t utilized Zlatan Ibrahimovic enough and lost against the spirited Ukrainian team, and they need to win here if they want to qualify for the knock-out round. The match is played on Friday June 15th, 2:45 pm US Eeastern time.

Against Ukraine, Sweden didn’t use Zlatan Ibrahimovic enough, but the below-average team mostly tried to design offensive actions without him. Ibrahimovic would fall back to the defensive midfielder position to send a simple pass, which is more than the poor Swedish team could do. As a consequence, Ibrahimovic was too far away from the Ukrainian goal to pose a real threat, and the finishing was left to bad players such as Wilhelmson and Elmander, who can’t play at this level. Still, Ibrahimovic managed to score and will be a major threat for the English defence as well. However, against England his services will again be needed in midfield as there will be no other way for the Swedes to penetrate the English defence.

Roy Hodgson quickly put all the pieces together and made England play well, and in absence of Wayne Rooney he used youngsters Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck to get some offensive flair up front. Andy Carroll was left on the bench. The entire English team worked well, and Steven Gerrard was the key player, he dictated play with his direct long balls towards wingers and strikers.

For this match, Gerrard and Scott Parker are questionable, as they are over 30 and Hodgson is worried they might not endure the tournament’s pace and play once every four days. James Milner is likely to play in midfield as Hodgson intends to rest his two hard-working midfielders. Since Frank Lampard didn’t travel with the team as he’s injured, Hodgson will have to patch up the midfield with some other player.

This will be the decisive match for England, as the first part of the plan was achieved, getting a point against France, and the final match against the hosts is too dangerous to be the one deciding whether England qualifies or not. Roy Hodgson and his team need to beat Sweden and enter the final rounds with four points. Sweden is desperate after the defeat in the first round, and will be hoping for a miracle against England, probably relying on their star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

It’s not likely to happen, Ibrahimovic will again be forced to play in midfield, and Hodgson is clever enough to mark the best striker in the world and let the below-average Swedish team try to dictate play without their main man. English victory is expected, in what is supposed to be a low-scoring game as England would be happy with a minimal victory.

You have to leave the pub during a live match – Survival Kit !!

I arrived at Timberwood at 11:30 on Monday. Was pretty quiet until a couple of English lads asked if I was Charlie from the Blog. Yes sirs indeed ’tis I for sure. Smashing. I have large screen tv’s, and a bunch of Brits to shout “The referee’s A Wanker” with for 90 minutes. Jumpers for goalposts on the car park boys !!!

A dull first half for England. Don’t get me wrong the defense was very solid an Joe Hart of the noisy neighbors seemed to be holding his own despite letting a goal in 9 minutes after Lescott scored a gem of a header from a lovely cross by Stevie G. The biggest shocker of all came in he second half. The wife calls me to remind me I have a doctors appointment. Right now. And I can’t miss it “MOTHER F%$%#R, BU”I**$T, BOLLOCKS”.

I had to think fast. I have an iPhone – I have internet. Goto espn.go.com and see if the games are streaming. It tells me to download the app WatchESPN (its free)

The App was showing me that the game was no won live. So i hit the live button. Nothing. I smack it a few times against the car door. Nothing. This app is taking the piss.

I look at the settings. “Do you have Comcast”? well yes i do.

Do you know your comcast xfinity settings? Well yes i do.

Enter settings. BANG a bunch of channels pop up. I click play on the England game and in full screen glory – i’m watching the England France game LIVE in the doctors waiting room. From my iphone – and its available on all Android phones and Xbox Live consoles too.

More win than any win that had ever been claimed before.

WIN

Where do England go now after the draw with France

England did not pull up any trees with the 1-1 draw with France, but they certainly have something to build upon.

Back-to-back wins in the Euro 2012 warm-up games and the draw with France have provided England fans with the belief that they can have a go and make something of this tournament.

With seemingly the hardest of the three group games now out of the way, Roy Hodgson will need to freshen things up and chance his team’s approach in the next two games against Sweden and Ukraine.

England worked well to contain France, with a solid showing from a rigid back four.

Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole found themselves in more withdrawn full-back roles, defending well without venturing forward as often as the do in the Premier League.

Despite Hodgson’s claims that his side would be setting out to beat France, it was clearly a contained performance from England, aiming to keep their opponents at bay and not committing to attack.

This however will not be the same against Sweden and Ukraine.

England will need to approach both games with the aim to win, with four points from the two games being the minimum expected.

With the return of Wayne Rooney from suspension, Hodgson will also have to consider bringing him in to the team for the final game against Ukraine, with Welbeck being the player currently occupying the centre forward position.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the shock inclusion in Hodgson’s starting XI for the game with France and the decision to keep him in the team is another he will need to make.

Rooney’s return could spark a shake up, with the Man United man possibly pairing with his club team-mate up front and Ashley Young being shifted onto the left hand side of midfield.

The reduced expectations have allowed England to to build on their shape and style.

A win against Sweden will raise fans hopes once again, with the knowledge that a win edges England even closer to going through and progressing in Euro 2012