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|EURO 2012 Analysis: England on track with 3-2 win over Sweden, but on track for what?|
England ended Sweden’s hopes of a successful Euro 2012 campaign with a 3-2 victory over the Scandinavian nation, but more will be required if the Three Lions hope to make it far themselves.
Few predicted an entertaining match when Sweden and England eventually took to the pitch in Kiev for their Euro 2012 Matchday 2 encounter, but a small number of high quality moments turned the match into a see-sawing affair. Roy Hodgson made only one change to the side that drew 1-1 with France on Matchday 1, Arsenal starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was dropped to the bench as Liverpool’s Andy Carroll partnered Danny Welbeck upfront.
A lot had been made in the build up by Hodgson of his belief that Sweden could be exposed from crosses into the box, and so it proved on 23 minutes when Carroll moved in between the two centre-halves to meet a delicious Steven Gerrard ball and powerfully head home.
Despite then Hodgson pairing two strikers up front and receiving reward early for a seemingly more attacking line-up, England quickly reverted back into their staunch deep defensive lines and allowed Sweden to take control of proceedings. The result was to concede twice from set pieces and find themselves 2-1 down 60 minutes into the match.
A disappointing James Milner was replaced with Theo Walcott who had an immediate impact restoring parity just four minutes later through a deflected strike, and the Arsenal forward then turned provider driving into the Swedish box to deliver a cross that Welbeck incredibly back-heeled for the winner.
In some respects it is hard to get a grasp of what this match meant for England, Hodgson’s tactics seemingly worked, then failed, but through quick action substituting Walcott on the plan worked again. The pragmatism of Hodgson’s approach is harsh on the eyes but the brain says it makes sense given the options at his disposal.
The concern must be that for a team based on such a defensive attitude, they’ve conceded poorly against both France and Sweden. The flip side is that for such a defensive side they’ve scored some fantastic goals, Welbeck’s goal in particular will surely feature on the highlights reel when the tournament is said and done.
Looking ahead England need only a draw against Ukraine to progress out of the group stages, and they also welcome arguably their most talented player back to the fold, Wayne Rooney. The addition of the Manchester United striker should mean that England are able to exert more influence on matches in the middle of the park by keeping possession going forward, something they badly need to achieve if they want to make themselves a real threat to the tournament favourites.
Theo Walcott is the other player likely to win himself a starting berth against Ukraine, at the expense of a poor James Milner. The Manchester City midfielder is a hard worker and has a good crossing ability, attributes that theoretically should have endeared him to Hodgson’s system. Unfortunately it hasn’t proven to be the case and Walcott’s impressive half an hour should see him start on Matchday 3.
Critics are sure to surround Hodgson for his approach the moment England fail, and no doubt some were sharpening their pencils 60 minutes in last night. The reality is though that their organised, defensive approach, crossing into strong forwards, is the approach most likely to bring England success. If they can improve on their passing and maintain more possession then they will turn into a real force to be reckoned with.
England should get the result they are looking for against Ukraine, but how far they go after that is anyone’s guess, I suspect not far.