England defeated Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine 1-0 last night to set-up a quarter-final meeting with Italy on Sunday evening.
Wayne Rooney’s goal was enough to secure victory for the Three Lions.
It may not have been England’s best performance at a major competition but victory was enough to win them group D.
It was typical display by a Roy Hodgson team. The team produced a solid display and managed to come into the game a bit more in the second half.
England looked organised and hard to break down and that’s the sort of teams Roy Hodgson produces.
I have to say to say that England was slightly lucky in victory but they earned their luck through hard work. The Ukrainians will be feel that they should have been awarded a goal in the 63rd minute, when Devic’s effort crossed the line and was cleared by John Terry.
However, everybody in the world apart from Ukraine boss Oleg Blokhin now knows that the linesman should have flagged Artem Milevskiy offside in the build-up to the effort. The Ukrainian boss was not happy at the officials performance but he conveniently decided to ignore the fact that Milevskiy was offside when the Ukraine attack started.
There seems to be a really good feeling of togetherness within this group of England players and morale seems high in the Three Lions camp. In previous tournaments there was a feeling that all was not well within the England squad but this squad seems a happy one.
It’s all a far cry from the 2010 World Cup where the team looked disjointed and the atmosphere in the dressing room was one of confusion. Roy Hodgson has made sure his players know what he wants from them and they seem to be giving him it at the moment.
England play Italy in the quarter-finals and it will be a tough game. The Azzurri have been going through a period of transition since their 2010 World Cup nightmare first round exit, and are starting to look like a dangerous team again.
The likes of Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Di Natale can cause the best of defences problems. All three have scored at Euro 2012 in the group stage and will be looking to add to their tally against England.
Italy are a good team but the big question mark is over their temperament. Balotelli and Cassano are two of the most temperamental players in European football. On their day they can win games on their own but if they are having a bad game they are their own worst enemies.
The Italian defenders will be trying to wind-up Wayne Rooney but the English defenders will know Balotelli and Cassano can be wound-up just as easily as Rooney. England centre-back Joleon Lescott knows Balotelli well from playing with Manchester City and I’m he will know how get at him.
Italy will be without key defender Giorgio Chiellini for the quarter-finals clash. The centre-back is suffering with a thigh strain and won’t be fit to start the crucial game. His absence could be key if England have any chance of victory.
Expectations were very low for England at this tournament, which is very unusual for England heading into a major tournament. However, they have increased now that the Three Lions have qualified for quarter-finals.
I expected England to get out of the group, so they have fulfilled by expectations. However before the tournament started I thought they would probably go out in the quarter-finals. The performances so far have given me cause for optimism though and I think they could go through to the semi-finals.
The game against Italy is a hard one for England and it’s also a hard one to predict. Italy’s team is in transition and they still trying to bed in inexperienced players alongside more experienced players, a bit like England really.
Whatever happens from now on at Euro 2012 England fans can look at the team and think that there is cause for optimism. In his short time as England boss Roy Hodgson has got the team far more organised and well drilled.
This squad of players isn’t the best at the competition but Hodgson has made them into a team. With a bit of luck maybe England can go a bit further at Euro 2012. If not then there are signs that the England team have a man in charge that can help England progress in the future.
How far can England go at Euro 2012?