Well now, where do I start with this one?
All the tradition of this fixture was stacked against
England, with their record against
the Swedes in tournament play nothing short of disastrous.
But these records are there to be broken and
England, albeit through a torturous
route, achieved their goal.
The boys have finally come to the party!
For the first five minutes it was cat and mouse
between the teams as they felt each other out.
Most of the players, of both sides, were very familiar to each
other through the Premier League fixtures, and both knew what the
other could do. In the 7th
minute though, England
made the first noteworthy goal attempt, when a snapshot by Scott
Parker was palmed away by Andreas Isaksson in the Swedish goal.
In fact England
were gradually gaining the advantage and they were working hard all
around the team. Ashley
Cole's touch let him down when in a good position but then great play
by Andy Carroll and James Milner ended with a good cross into the box.
Danny Welbeck met the ball with his head, but couldn't quite
get either the purchase or the direction and the effort went wide.
main threat, predictably, was coming from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the
AC Milan player hit a strong shot from distance that Joe Hart dived to
his right to save. At
this stage the centre of the midfield was tight and congested, but on
23 minutes England
fashioned a wonderful goal.
Skipper Steven Gerrard picked up a clearance out on the right
and then delivered a peach of a cross into the path of the marauding
Liverpool striker nipped in front of the defender and
powered in a magnificent header from 15 yards out.
Tommy Lawton and Nat Lofthouse would have been proud of that
No doubt flashbacks went through the
fans minds though, as we had taken the lead in several previous
clashes with the Swedes, but this time it would be different wouldn't
Some defensive sloppiness by
half-chances but on the whole the Three Lions were fairly comfortable
with things. Ibrahimovic
continued to cause some concern and again he made Hart work with
another effort. The
lively Seb Larsson too, hit a long range shot that Hart was also equal
to. On 35 minutes though
England had another great chance when Cole's clever pass sent Ashley
Young clear and attacking the penalty box.
Unfortunately the Manchester United striker chose the wrong
option and elected to shoot when a pull back to the advancing Carroll
would probably have been the better choice.
The ball hit the side-netting.
At the other end more sloppiness, this time from Glen Johnson,
gave Kim Kallstrom a chance, but he shot over.
England can never fully rid themselves of their infuriating
habit of giving the ball away in crucial areas and bringing pressure
onto their defence that they should not have to experience.
As the half ended though, better play on the
right ended with an overhit cross from Milner and then a great turn by
Welbeck was met by an equally fine tackle from Jonas Olsson.
Finally Hart cut out a dangerous low cross from the right as
England went in at the break with their one goal lead intact.
Apart from Ibrahimovic, Sweden seemed to have little to offer
so it was a satisfied England team that trooped off for a cuppa.
With Sweden facing elimination if they lost this
game, they came out after the interval with a renewed determination.
All England had to do was match that extra effort, but within
three minutes their lead was wiped out and they were distinctly put on
the back foot. Carroll
was penalised for a foul on the edge of the area, a bit unlucky that,
as he had just been fouled previously without it being punished.
Needless to say it was Ibrahimovic who lined up the kick and
his shot was blocked by the wall.
But the ball bounced back to the Swede and he then tried to
volley a shot at goal.
The ball skewed off the outside of his foot but fell straight to the
unmarked Olof Mellberg, with Johnson putting him onside.
Mellberg shot, Hart pushed it away, but the ball struck Johnson
and the Liverpool player could not stop it going over the line for an
own goal. Not only was it
an awful goal to concede but it was so frustrating that England had
let Sweden back into it.
In the ten minutes after the break England had
played as poorly as they had for some considerable time.
Suddenly everyone looked leaden footed, and there was no sign
of the team finding a way out of this rut.
On 59 minutes the inevitable happened following another
needlessly conceded free-kick, this time by Milner.
Larsson's well-flighted free-kick was completely messed up by
the England defence and Mellberg had a free header.
Another awful goal from England's point of view, and to be
honest, at this stage there seemed no way back for the team.
They did win a corner, but from it Sweden broke quickly and
Ibrahimovic almost scored at the other end.
But then came a turning point in the game as Roy
Hodgson decided to replace the off-form Milner with Theo Walcott.
Immediately England were visibly lifted and John Terry looked
certain to score with a close range header, but somehow Isaksson
turned the ball over the bar.
From the corner the ball was cleared to the edge of the box and
Walcott picked it up and let fly from 20 yards.
This time the keeper was beaten as the ball dipped and swerved.
This lifted England out of their slumbers and
Gerrard almost burst through, and then Cole, Gerrard and Parker forged
a chance for Carroll to shoot just over.
A young free-kick also went over whilst at the other end
Kallstrom hit a shot wide after more poor defensive play by England.
tipped an Ibrahimovic shot around a post and then, amazingly, England
regained the lead.
In the 77th minute Walcott again
gained possession and this time he darted between two defenders into
the penalty box. When his
low cross came over Welbeck somehow twisted his body to back-heel with
his right foot wide of the keeper.
It was an extraordinary finish as the striker had his back to
In the remaining minutes there were few alarms
for England and in fact it was they that fashioned the two best
chances from swift counter-attacks.
First Parker shot over from a great position and then in the 92nd
minute Gerrard seemed certain to score only for Isaksson to once again
save the day for Sweden.
This was an amazing game, and in the end all
England rejoiced in the win, but boy, we do make things hard for
ourselves at times. But
credit to the undoubted spirit in this squad of players, and also
credit the manager for making a very decisive substitution which
proved a masterstroke.