Story by Robin Popley
Up and down like a roller coaster. That is the remit for an England fan’s health. Daredevil expectation: always hope for the best but always expect the worst. Yet, despite looking quite slap-dash in their play for long periods on Friday evening, this current England displayed a new characteristic. A resolve. It feels unnerving. Keep it to yourselves: but we are actually looking quite good!
The night began ever so well for England, against a national side they had failed to beat in all international tournaments, to date. After a rather close opening, the breakthrough came after 23 minutes, when Captain, Steven Gerrard – the provider for England’s 1st goal of the tournament – whipped in a superb ball from the right flank for the ‘big-man’ Andy Carroll to nod past a diving Andreas Isaksson. My living room went wild. Pubs across the land erupted. We were on our way!
That is how it would stay until half-time. The BBC team all praised Hodgson’s team selection. We were all happy and content we were leading in a pretty drab affair. However, that was all about to change, in the most extraordinary fashion imaginable!
When Sweden won a free kick early into the second half, England looked wary. It was delivered and to our (the supporters) delight it was a pretty dire effort. Yet, within seconds, a goal mouth scramble and poor marking later, Sweden were level. Melberg accredited with it in the Stadium yet replays show Glen Johnson – by virtue of trying to amend an earlier mistake – scooped the ball into his own goal, via a deflection off the left post. Woe, oh woe. England were at it again!
Minutes later and the situation was to get only a whole lot worse for English fans. Following an in-swinging cross by Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson, at the set play, Melberg again was first to react and this time there were no doubts he was the scorer. Joe Hart was left to watch the ball go past him. England’s defence looking at one another. More importantly, though, England were now 2 – 1 down. In unison, we all asked ourselves, ‘How will we ever to stop the rot?’
Roy seemingly listened using telepathic brain waves. He called over the most unfortunate member of England’s squad to date, Theo Walcott, to get stripped down (not in that way people) and come on to be England’s saviour and how he duly responded!
Firstly, striking a shot from outside the area, over the wrong footed Isaksson, before playing in Manchester United’s young starlet, Danny Welbeck, to complete the turnaround via a deft flick off his heel. Euphoria. Surprise. Ecstasy. England were victorious to our delight. Our fate is in our own hands. Sweden are out!
In the day’s other match; France – after riding an early storm (no pun intended) – overcame the Ukraine 2 – 0, goals courtesy of Menez and Newcastle’s, Cabaye. The result left the French top of Group D heading into the group finale on Tuesday.