England edge Sweden, France outclass Ukraine | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.06.2012
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England edge Sweden, France outclass Ukraine

It was a bumpy ride for England as they overcame Sweden 3-2, in an initially dull game that turned into a thriller. Meanwhile, France showed their quality, defeating Ukraine after a very unusual suspension of play.

A fairly flat first half gave way to a second half packed with thrills in Kiev on Friday night, as England and Sweden took each other on in Group D.

England took the lead after 23 minutes when a sweet high ball from Steven Gerrard found Andy Carroll leaping between the last two defenders. The Liverpool target man powered his header past a diving Andreas Isaksson.

As the match wore on, Sweden started to create chances of their own - only to be denied by either England keeper Joe Hart, or the woodwork.

The goal was to prove the only major talking point of the opening period, but the next 45 minutes were in marked contrast.

Sweden's Olof Mellberg scores

There was no doubt about Mellberg's second, or rather first, goal

Sweden took the initiative after the restart, and a desperate challenge by Carroll gave Sweden a free kick.

Swedish talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic took it, before volleying the rebound to find Olof Mellberg. The defender's shot seemed to linger on the line, as England's Glen Johnson tried to keep it out - in vain. UEFA later classified the quirky goal as a Johnson own goal.

Within ten minutes Mellberg definitively scored one of his own with a header at the end of a cross from Seb Larsson.

For Sweden, it might have seemed as though the match was a reverse of the Ukraine defeat in the first round, where they scored the first goal, only to concede two.

A second turnaround

However, England had other ideas. Minutes after coming on for James Milner, Theo Walcott scored when a corner clearance fell to him at the edge of the area, his shot easily beating Isaksson.

For a while it looked as though either team might win, with both sides exposed at the back more than once. In the end, though, it was England who added to the score line. Walcott broke through the box and cut the ball square to Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, who somehow readjusted his foot to put the ball in with a curious flick.

Play is suspended due to bad weather

The storm meant there was a break in play between France and Ukraine

Sweden, facing the prospect of an exit from the contest, launched repeated attacks but it was not to be. The game ended 3-2, with Sweden heading home and England now masters of their own destiny - a win or a draw against Ukraine would guarantee them a spot in the quarters.

Earlier, the beginning of the Ukraine versus France match in Donetsk got underway on time only to be halted for an hour just five minutes in because of lightning. Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers ordered the players to go back to the dressing rooms.

"The match has been temporarily suspended," announced the stadium announcer, amid a torrential storm.

As play resumed, 57 minutes later, France started out with most of the possession, but seemed unable to break through effectively. Franck Ribery and Jeremy Menez had an early effort that did find its way into goal, but it was declared offside.

In fact, for spells of the first half it looked as though Ukraine might score first, with counterattacks that left Laurent Blanc's men looking vulnerable. Andriy Yarmolenko's effort on 24 minutes was a particularly lucky escape for the French.

France's Yohan Cabaye scores a second

France had trouble breaking through, but when the goals came, they came quickly

By the second break of the game, this time a scheduled one, it looked as though either team might take it. France came back out of the dressing room and put paid to that with a quickfire double early in the second half.

The first one was a gift for Menez from Ribery, who found him in the box. Menez sliced it home with ease.

Ahead, and in control

In contrast to the open nature of the game earlier, once France had the lead it appeared they would never let it go.

The second came just minutes later. Karim Benzema found Yohan Cabaye close to the edge of the area. Cabaye's effort took a lucky deflection off Oleg Gusev and went in under the Ukraine keeper.

Ukraine looked somewhat deflated, and some wild shots on goal were not enough. By the end of the match, they were finding it hard to get out of their own half. The match ended 2-0 to France.

Although the result will be a blow for Ukraine, it is far from fatal - a win against England would guarantee them a spot in the last eight. For the French, it was a statement of intent.

Author: Richard Connor
Editor: Mark Hallam