Better late than never for Wazza.
Sitting out the first two matches of Euro 2012 due to suspension, English striker Wayne Rooney returned to the pitch to boot England past Ukraine, 1-0. In so doing, the Three Lions ended the group stage on top of Group D, setting up a match against rival Italy in the final eight.
Rooney’s heroics came in the 48th minute after Steven Gerrard blasted a beautiful cross into the penalty area into the waiting noggin of the Manchester United striker, who then netted it past the reach of Andriy Pyatov. Rooney’s goal also marked a watershed moment for the temperamental striker considering that it was his first goal for the English team since 2004. Yep, back when he was at the tail end of puberty.
The match also had its share of controversy after Ukraine appeared to knot the score in the 62nd minute courtesy of a Marko Devic looper that crossed the goal line before being cleared by John Terry. Both the referee and the assistant behind the goal missed the call, essentially dooming Ukraine’s chances of advancing to the quarterfinals.
As it stands now, both co-hosts, Ukraine and Poland, are out of the tournament, leaving behind a trail of disappointed fans lamenting the blown chances both squads had after impressive showings in their opening matches.
Meanwhile, Denmark scored a 2-0 upset over France in the other Group D match, although it did little in changing the outcome of Group D. Both France and Ukraine finished at four points apiece with the French advancing on basis of a stronger goal differential (0 to -2).
Despite playing for nothing more than national pride, Sweden came out with guns blazing, highlighted by a ridiculous, off-balanced volley from Zlatan Ibrahimovich in the 54th minute that will go down as one of the best goals in the tournament so far. Sebastian Larsson added his own piece of artistry in injury time, volleying a rebound into an empty net to give the Swedes a 2-0 win and their first points of the tournament.
France looked completely listless from the start and the final score doesn’t even do justice to emphasize how Sweden dominated the entire proceedings. With defending champs Spain – and a suddenly resurgent Fernando Torres – waiting in the wings, the French team need to get their act together in order for them to at least have a fighting chance of unseating the team looking to win an unprecedented third international tournament in a row.