If you had asked me at the beginning of the tournament who was going to win group D, I probably would have said France. But after they flamed out after acting like five-year-olds in the previous World Cup, there wasn’t much promise there. Next I might have said Sweden, who have strong players all over the pitch but never show up after the quarterfinals of pretty much every tournament. Thridly was a toss up. A Ukraine side who might ride the crowd as the host nation, but whose star player might be as old as Roberto Carlos or as old as Carlos Puyol looks. Or England, who were without suspended superstar Wayne Rooney and a lot questions in the back four.
But despite all the critics and tabloids surroundingthe English national team, they found a way to get the job done on the opposition’s soil. Not without it’s share of controversy, though.
Truth be told, neither team (Ukraine or England) deserved to win this game. England looked very poor in the first half, where Ukraine has getting chance after chance. Other than a Rooney header that he should have at least put on frame, England was uninspiring in the final third.
Shaping was the main problem for England in the first half. The forwards would press high, but the defenders would drop back, leaving tons of space for Ukraine to pass the ball around in. In one instance, it took just three passes to get the from 18 to 18 for a shot. Unfortunately for Ukraine, some how, the England defense found a way to hold against the several Ukrainian attacks.
The second half was much more interesting, including an apparent blown goal no-call. It seems that England is always involved in these games (check the 1966 World Cup final and 2010 World Cup game, both against Germany).
Nearly three minutes into the half, Gerrard played a ball against the box in front of goal. It took “Not five, not six, not seven…” but two deflections off defenders causing the keeper to misplay the ball as it head right towards Rooney’s awaiting head. This proved to be the only called goal of the game, thus the decisive one.
Trailing England and France by a point, Ukraine needed to win this game. Needing two goals, the blue jerseys pushed forward. The sideline ref in charge of calling offside on the Ukrainians was even on their side. On one cross, one forward for Ukraine found himself in an offside position for an easy header that he shanked over the ball. No signal from the side ref.
Moments later, the play that might help institute goal line technology occurred. However, if the play had been classed right, Ukraine should have been offside yet again. Again, no call from the ref. This led to a shot that Joe Hart got an arm to, but was heading for the goal. Terry raced and cleared the ball “off the line” as the 5th ref would call it. Replays show that the ball indeed crossed the line and should have been a Ukraine goal 1-1. With a revitalized crowd, this might have inspired the Ukrainian national team to score another and even win the group!
But the goal was not allowed, and rightfully so. The play should not have even counted, so what does it matter if the goal was prevented from an offside call or a blown goal line call. I’ll tell you how it matters. Not in the result of this game, but in a worldwide soccer/football movement. This is plenty of evidence to get goal line technology in place. FIFA placed these officials to make exactly this call and they blew it. Just put a chip marker in the center of the ball for big tournaments, and when it crosses the posts, have a signal go off. It’s pretty simple, no? Get it done, FIFA.
And can someone please tell me what the 5th refs are actually supposed to be doing? I haven’t even seen them signal for corners or goal kicks yet. If they aren’t going to make calls, and miss calls that they are placed to make, just take them off the field. No one wants to stand in roughly the same spot for 90 minutes. Oh wait, that’s pretty much what some keepers do. Whoops.
Moving forward, England draws Italy in the next round. A much better draw for England than the attacking power of Spain. The Spanish would have shredded the English defense to a multi-goal victory. But Italy won’t be a walk in the park, maybe. Could this be the time that Mario Balotelli loses it and gets sent off? It’s what we have all been waiting for. Will the Italians play to the level of their opponents like they normally do, and find a way to lose? They just might.
But even if they do, and England wins, they would have to get through probably Germany and then either Spain/Portugal. England, you may have overachieved so far through this Euro, but don’t get your hopes up.