Wayne Rooney scored on his England return and John Terry was awarded a seemingly false goal-line clearance as the Three Lions hung on to a somewhat fortunate 1-0 win over Ukraine to win Group D over favorites France.
Laurent Blanc’s Les Bleus, who entered their last group stage match against the eliminated Sweden on a 23-match unbeaten run, were finally defeated 2-0 as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored six minutes after Rooney’s 48th minute strike at the Donbass Arena and Sebastian Larsson added a late second.
It was an interesting sequence of events that turned the tide in England’s favor this evening – from Ukraine talisman Andriy Shevchenko’s injury to Rooney’s close-range decider to France’s loss in Kiev.
Roy Hodgson’s men have consequently scheduled a quarterfinal date with Group C runners-up Italy on Sunday, while the French will be in action on Saturday against defending champions Spain.
While the feeling of relief is inevitable among England fans who have seen their team suffer in major international tournaments over the years, doubt will certainly be cast over tonight’s result by the controversial moment involving Terry.
The Chelsea captain appeared to have heroically cleared Marko Devic’s shot near the hour-mark after the Shakhtar midfielder had beaten goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Replays suggested that the ball had completely crossed the line and Terry’s heroics should have been, in fact, considered null and void (although it must be noted that the attacking play began with Ukraine caught in an off-side position).
Instead, it was a brave effort from the Ukrainians that will now go down into the books as just that – a brave effort. Shevchenko came off the bench with ambitions of providing a final punch but it just wasn’t meant to be for the Euro 2012 co-hosts.
While Oleh Blokhin’s men join the other co-hosts Poland on the sidelines now, the spirited manner in which they left the field in Donetsk merits a lot of respect.
The other tournament quarterfinals will be played between Czech Republic and Portugal on Thursday, and Germany and Greece on Friday.