Story by Robin Popley
God bless our Queen. God bless Sweden. God bless good fortune: we did it. However fortunate our win against the Ukraine was, Rooney’s 48th Minute goal was enough to put England through as Group D winners, ahead of a French team downed against the Swedes. However, had goal line technology existed, the final result and outcome may have been a whole lot different. Thankfully, Mr. Blatter aired his views on Twitter after the match, but sadly not before South Africa 2010.
The night began with France leading the Group on 4 points, level with England, ahead virtue of their result against the Ukraine having given them a superior goal difference of plus 2. England, were on a solitary 1, after their nerve-biting 3-2 victory against Sweden. Very few England fans had anticipated a match against any other opponent than Spain, if progression to the Quarter Finals, were confirmed. Nor, did it look a realistic possibility, at some stages during yesterday. Ukraine, for long periods of the game, outplayed and outwitted their English opponents. The closest England came to breaking the dead-lock before the break, was through the man nicknamed ‘Wazza’, as he nodded wide (unmarked) following a pin-point cross from the left flank by his Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young. Eyes must have been rolling across the nation as we wondered, once more, if the pre-game hype of his return was premature.
Yet, true to the script, Rooney pounced at the back-post following another Steven Gerrard delivery in the first moments of the 2nd half to alleviate the stresses of Three-Lions everywhere. Forgive me for stating the obvious but: GET IN!!! Kiss the badge, kiss the rabbit foot, luck was definitely on our side last night. FIFA knew it!
Nevertheless, a win was only half of the story. England still needed Sweden to equal their result or at least draw against the French, for Roy’s boys to avoid the fluid Spanish giants. If the gods were smiling, then we unreservedly thank them. Tenfold.
A sweetly struck volley by Zlatan Ibrahimovic early in the 2nd half gave English fans hope. Seb Larsson’s 91st minute goal sent two nations into a frenzy. England land Italy in the Quarters. France get the tough nut to crack. Thank you Sweden. Thank you, thank you and thank you again.
Bring on Sunday. Do we dare to dream???