Group C’s winners and losers were decided on Monday night, as Spain and Italy won their fixtures against Croatia and Republic of Ireland respectively to make the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. The holders topped the pool, whilst the Azzurri make the next round as runners up.
Tuesday sees the last day of the group stages, as Group D draws to a close and the seventh and eighth teams to make the knockout rounds will be decided. With Sweden already eliminated, two from three will progress, as France, England and Ukraine all play to prolong their stay in the tournament. Here is the news from Euro 2012 catching the gaze of Soccerlens today.
Rooney returns as England look to seal quarter-final place
As with all the other pools, Group D has gone down to the wire to see who will make the next round, with England one of three sides that can finish first, second or third dependant on their final result. Roy Hodgson’s men face co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday night knowing they only need a draw to progress, with a certain Wayne Rooney ready to make his competition bow.
Expectations surrounding the Three Lions camp have been more realistic than usual in the lead-up to an international tournament, but after positive results against France and Sweden hopes are starting to increase. With the return to action of world-class forward Rooney, qualification is now the minimum for the English fans.
Hodgson has started to gain respect for the tactics the team have deployed, with a cautious outlook against the heavily-fancied French resulting in a hard-fought draw, and the introduction of second striker Andy Carroll heralding a comeback win over Sweden. The new manager has stated that he will adopt a ‘horses for courses’ approach in team selection dependant on England’s opponents, and as such it will be interesting to see who he selects for this game.
Rooney’s availability will see the Manchester United man slot straight into the starting XI, with Hodgson even admitting that the talismanic attacker may well be vice-captain. England have the option of leaving the returning hero up-front by himself, or partnering him with either Danny Welbeck or Carroll, who both netted in the last game. Meanwhile, Theo Walcott has been pronounced fit to play after a hamstring scare, and following an impressive showing from the bench against Sweden may be in line for a start, if Hodgson is brave enough to include another attacking player.
England only need a point to secure progression, which is always a difficult result to play for. Ukraine will be no pushovers, especially on home soil, and Hodgson’s men should not look beyond Oleg Blokhin’s men, but one eye will be assessing potential quarter-final opponents. Spain topped Group C, and to avoid the world champions and take on a more manageable Italy in the next stage, England must also finish first in their pool. To do this victory is needed against Ukraine, and Hodgson should send his team out to play for three points not merely one.
Rooney’s inclusion could well be critical in the remainder of the Three Lions’ campaign. Despite both Welbeck and Carroll impressing in the last game, it is arguable that the United forward is England’s only real world-class player, and should add a touch of finesse and an extra goalscoring threat to the side.
Hodgson has built up Rooney’s return over the last fortnight, calling him England’s Pele, and there has been a sense that the national team have had to just hang on until their main man is allowed to play again. Although Rooney’s ability is there for all to see and England will be a better team with his inclusion, the country’s hopes cannot be solely pinned on just one player.
The positive results in the first two games have been due to a collective team effort, and even with Rooney returning, this group mentality must continue for England to prevail. If the side stick together as they have done to date in the competition, Rooney will be there to give them a clinical edge. Although qualification is the most important thing, a win will be the side’s prerequisite to build up hopes that the Three Lions can really challenge for inclusion in the latter stages of the tournament.
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Bendtner given £80K fine
Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner has been handed a £80K fine after revealing his underwear with a betting sponsor on them after scoring against Portugal. The Telegraph examine recent fines and their relevance in the game.
Spain qualify for quarter-finals
A 1-0 win over Croatia sends Spain through to the last eight of Euro 2012 as Group C winners. The Independent report on La Roja’s win, but point out that Vicente del Bosque have not shown as irresistible form in the tournament as in past years.
Ukraine to give Shevchenko late fitness test
Co-hosts Ukraine are set to wait to the last possible moment to gauge whether star striker Andriy Shevchenko can feature against England in the Group D decider.
Blanc not underestimating Sweden
France boss Laurent Blanc has stated that his Les Bleus side must not underestimate Sweden in Tuesday night’s Euro 2012 game, despite being overwhelming favourites to win.
Italy progress from Group C
Italy were the other team from Group C to make the quarter-finals, after goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli assured the runners-up spot.
Come back tomorrow for all the fallout from the last day of the group stages, and to hear all the latest news from Ukraine and Poland.