England came out tops of a 5-goal thriller to beat and eliminate bogey team Sweden 3-2 in one of the most entertaining matches of the Euro 2012 tournament thus far.
The Three Lions went into the match carrying an unenviable statistic of not having beaten the Scandinavians in their past 7 competitive attempts. Roy Hodgson introduced Liverpool striker Andy Caroll into the starting IX and the big man paid his manager's faith in him handsomely by powerfully heading home the opener in the 23rd minute off a Steven Gerard cross to give England a 1-0 lead heading into the break.
Sweden started the second half brightly launching a wave of attacks and putting the England defence under incessant pressure. They soon grabbed the equalizer, just 4 minutes after the restart. Caroll conceded a free-kick and Zlatan Ibrahimovic stepped forward to take it. The Swedish captain saw his effort come off the wall and he hit the rebound into the path of former Aston Villa center-back Olof Melberg who shot past Joe Hart and Glen Johnson unsuccessfully tried to clear it but conceded the goal instead.
England were on the back foot and they soon allowed Erik Hamren's side to take the lead. Sebastian Larsson sent a free-kick into the England D finding an unmarked Melberg who headed home to make it 2-1.
Roy Hodgson needed not much more time to show his tactical acumen as he sent on speed star Theo Walcott with James Milner making way. The change soon paid off. Steven Gerrard swung in one of his customary corner kicks but it was headed out. Fortunately for England, Walcott was waiting from just outside the area and the Arsenal winger hit a sumptous volley that deceived everyone including custodian Andreas Isaksson to make it 2-2 and set up a dramatic finish.
Ibrahimovic tested Hart soon after but the England No. 1 was equal to the task parrying the ball to safety. Another magical Walcott moment was on the offing though. The 23-year-old squeezed himself between two Swedish defenders before crossing from the right and Danny Welbeck connected with a mind-boggling back heel to win it for England.
The win eliminated Sweden from the competition and England just need to draw their last match to qualify for the quarters.
Meanwhile, at the Donbass Arena in Donets'k France boosted their chances of qualifying from Group D with a 2-0 win over co-hosts Ukraine. Two second half goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye gave Les Blues the win in a match that was suspended for nearly an hour due to a heavy downpour. Laurent Blanc's men lead the group and like England, they will also need a draw in their final match against Sweden to qualify for the quarters. England tackle Ukraine.
Day 9 of the championships sees the last round of group A matches taking place Saturday June 16. Co-hosts Poland take on the Czech Republic in a winner takes all match. However, a draw for Czech coupled by a Greece win over Russia will see the Central Europeans qualify. Russia need only a point to advance to the quarters but 2004 Champions Greece will have to win and hope that Poland beat Czech.
Czech 2-0 Poland
Greece 2-2 Russia
You can catch all the scores and updates from Day 9 here.
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