Analysis: England go through amidst controversy
- Nidhun Thankachan
Story Dated: Thursday, June 21, 2012 19:34 hrs IST
Donetsk (Ukraine) 20-06-2012
The ongoing debate on goal-line technology installation got added fuel as Ukraine were denied a clear goal today, after going behind against a resolute England. Rooney’s lone goal was enough to see England through to the quarterfinals and with Sweden pulling off a 2-0 win over France, the Three Lions finished top of Group D with 7 points.
England needed only a point to qualify whereas Ukraine needed a win, and this fact clearly reflected in the tactics the teams employed and the formations they adopted, going into this game
England welcomed back their suspended talisman, Wayne Rooney who started behind Manchester United teammate Danny Welback in the front line, who was preferred over Andy Carroll. Roy Hogdson sent out an otherwise unchanged side from the opening two games, keeping faith in James Milner on the right flank even after Theo Walcott’s heroics the other night against Sweden. England has looked solid defensively using a 4-4-2 system with Gerrard and Parker both having good tournaments.
Ukraine went into the game with inspirational captain and record goalscorer Andriy Shevchenko on the bench, nursing a niggling knee injury. Oleg Blokhin opted for Serbian born stiker Marko Devic as his replacement in the starting line up, also sending in Yaroslav Rakitskiy in place of Taras Mykhaly in the center of defence. Andrei Voronin and Serhiy Nazarenko made way for Deny Harmash and Artem Milevskiy as Blokhin making 4 changes to the side that went down 2-0 to France. Ukraine employed an attack minded 4-3-3 formation with the exciting pair of Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka bombing down the wings
How it panned out
England went out with a defensive mindset and buoyed by a vociferous home crowd, co-hosts Ukraine enjoyed early possession without creating any major opportunities. Rooney missed a glorious opportunity to send England into the lead in the 28th minute when he headed wide after a fantastic cross from Ashley Young. Young was the lone English who looked lively in the first half, constantly beating defenders and putting in good balls into the box from the left flank. Andrei Yarmalenko, widely touted as the future of Ukranian football, was causing problems for the English with his mazy runs and sound dribbling. Lescott and Terry however, stood firm. After the game against France, the English tabloids called their National Team ‘The Chelsea of International Football’ and it was emphasized a lot this game also, as the English defended in numbers, with no major attacking intent.
The second half started with a bang, with the English taking the lead in the 48th minute. Gerrard sent in a teasing cross after good work down the right and the Ukranian defence failed to clear their lines. Goalkeeper Andriv Pytov fumbled his save and Wayne Rooney had to just glance the header into an open goal. England went ahead against the run of play and the Donetsk crowd were clearly dismayed at what they were seeing unfold. Ukraine threw more men forward as now they had to score 2 to qualify. Artem Milevskiy missed a sitter in the 60th minute, heading over from a clear offside position which was unnoticed by the referee.
Controversy struck in 62nd minute after Ukraine were denied a goal by the assistant referee. A wonderful turn and pass from Milevskiy had put Devic through and the Serbian-born striker’s dink over Joe Harte was cleared off the line by Terry. Television replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the line. England will claim that this is justice for their heartbreak at the 2010 World Cup, when they were denied a goal in the same manner against Germany.
Oleg Blokhin had to take drastic action to turn around a game fast slipping away from the co-hosts and he brought in a clearly unfit Andriy Shevchenko to inspire his teammates forward. Bohdan Butko and Serhiy Nazarenko were also sent put as substitutes but the English defended with 10 men behind the ball, creating an impregnable wall that the Ukranians simply couldn’t penetrate.
With Ukraine also biting the dust , the tournament is now without both host nations. The quarter final fixtures promises some mouth watering clashes with England taking on Italy, Germany taking on the defensive Greeks, Spain up against France and the Czech Republic set to square off against Portugal.
Ukraine can complain all they want about the lack of goal line technolgy that cost them a passage into the second round, but the fact remains that they were simply not good enough in their final two games. Ukraine lacks a genuine playmaker in the middle. Although Yarmolenko and Kanoblyanka are exciting prospects, both of them are wingers and cannot play down the middle, feeding the strikers with pinpoint through balls. With Andriy Shevchenko probably retiring after this tournament and players like Andrei Voronin well past their primes, it is time Oleg Blokin went in search for suitable successors.
England look solid at the back but lack substance going forward and that may come back to haunt them against the better teams. Up against Italy next, Roy Hogdson may well opt for Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right flank, to upset the Italians who don’t have quick wingbacks. John Terry had a standout game, along with Steven Gerrard, but this Chelsea-esque style that England is playing doesn’t seem to be suiting the front men like Rooney and Young and they were lucky to get a goal in this game because of a defensive lapse. Hogdson has his defensive tactics spot on, but has to work on his offense also, if the Three Lions are to satisfy a passionate set of fans, who expect nothing short of the title itself.