Wayne Rooney had the simplest of tasks left after Steven Gerrard’s cross broke free with no Ukrainian defender dealing with it sufficiently – that’s Gerrard’s third game in a row in which he set up a goal. Roy Hodgson’s decision to start him paid off just as it did with Andy Carroll against Sweden. In fact, the former Fulham manager’s choices of starters and subs have been flawless.
Despite nearly fifty spots between the two nations in FIFA’s rankings and that Ukraine likely wouldn’t have made it to this year’s Euros were they not the host, for much of the opening period they looked the only side likely to score a goal. The first ghost goal controversy bedeviled Ukraine as Marko Devic’s shot which Joe Hart managed to deflect was cleared by John Terry after it crossed the line. Replays show the ball crossed the line. There may have been questions of offside in the build-up, but Ukraine will feel the clearly aggrieved side in the aftermath while England will enjoy this time around being the clear beneficiaries of UEFA and Michel Platini’s steadfast opposition to any kind of goal-line technology. Ukraine was also the better team in large spells with England looking wobbly.
Along with England, France also advanced to the quarter-finals today, though after suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of already eliminated Sweden it means that it is Roy Hodgson’s side who go through in first place. Heading into the twelfth and final day of the group stage at Euro 2012, most had penciled in Spain versus England and France versus Italy in the first knockout round, but instead it will be France who now take on Spain on Saturday evening while England are set for Italy on Sunday. And now, after setting up as underdogs against sides that on paper they should have been able to play off the park—or, in the case of badly misfiring France, at least go toe-to-toe with—it will be intriguing to see how Roy Hodgson’s approach to this summer’s Euros holds up in a game where England actually are underdogs.