Story by Robin Popley
Well, if the doubters were out in force before kick-off, they were certainly silenced upon the final whistle. Both England and the Ukraine defied expectation, leaving France and Sweden left to rue missed opportunities.
I shall begin with England. Wow. I was hopeful that we’d make some progress under Roy Hodgson’s tenure but – despite this not being our most skilful squad in history – we played exceptionally well. No. Phenomenally. Considering the circumstances which surrounded the England camp before Monday night, the strength shown by each and every single member of the team, should be commended. Scott Parker, in particular, showed the native crowds why Stuart Pearce in his one and only game as caretaker made him the England captain. Nevertheless, it should not be ignored, it was only one game. However, despite feeling despondent upon Nasri’s equaliser, elation surely was instilled across the nation when Joleon Lescott headed the ball into the French net upon 30 minutes. Next up are Sweden, with every chance of qualification, something the press before the tournament did not think was viable.
In the other match of the evening, Ukraine – courtesy of their national hero, ex-Chelsea striker, Shevchenko – turned around a 1 – 0 deficit to win 2 – 1. Much like England, their display showed courage and true grit (not to get mixed up with the terrible remake of recent times, following a brilliant original, starting John Wayne). However, one thing still remains.
France are very much the flair side and with England (at present) falling into the same category as Sweden and Ukraine in playing with a lesser squad, it is still too early to call, who will come through Group D and advance to the later stages.
We all hope, though, the Three Lions will be one of the two on our wall-charts!