Euro 2012 Day 12: Lady Luck Smiles On Roy
So for the first time since 1988, the European Championship group stages end without a goalless draw. In ’88 though, there were only 8 teams taking part in the tournament which means they only competed in half of the 24 group games played in 2012, which makes this year’s achievement quite unique.
Ukraine put in a positive performance against England and must consider themselves unlucky. They conceded from a deflected cross that put their goalkeeper in an awkward position and were denied a goal when the ball had clearly crossed the line at the other end. Considering there was a fourth official (or is it fifth) stationed in the perfect position, it was a very poor call and the co-hosts are rightly feeling a little aggrieved this morning. Mind you, one goal would not have been enough to see them through anyway, but it would certainly have given them encouragement to try and win the game.
But that’s the nature of cup competitions, a couple of incidents can make the difference between being on the brink of a place in the semi-final or an abrupt end to the tournament. England got the rub of the green yesterday and English supporters must be hoping their team makes good use of it.
Wayne Rooney’s return was expected to help England keep the ball better but he didn’t impress too much yesterday. In fact, he missed a fantastic opportunity from Ashley Young’s cross around the half hour mark. Although he did score the winning goal in the sceond period, the United striker looked off the pace and Roy Hodgson will be hoping England’s MVP can be more influential in the next match.
In the other match, Sweden restored some pride by beating France 2-0. A fantastic overhead kick by Ibrahimovic and a late goal by ex-Gunner Seb Larsson meant France finished the group as runners-up and now have the unenviable task of meeting Spain in the quarter-finals. Yann M’Vila started in midfield next to Alou Diarra, a rather defensive move from Laurent Blanc considering Cabaye did quite well in both previous matches.
Yann made the most passes in the game, most of them recycling possession as opposed to trying to set someone running on goal. Still, that’s what M’Vila does and he does it well, as the 95% completion rate clearly suggests. If he were to arrive, he would slot in perfectly into the Arteta-role – which of course opens the debate about where Arteta would play and the future of Alex Song.
I think Spain will be the happiest with yesterday’s results. Del Bosque’s side have struggled when denied space in the final third and will fancy France’s slightly more open structure to Roy Hodgson’s two banks of four.
At the other end, it will be interesting to see how Prandelli lines up the Italians against England. Both sides are set up to be reactive and have not been convincing when taking the initiative. It could be a cagey affair, low on quality but high on drama.
Back tomorrow with more thoughts.