May 21, 2013
Sloppy England inspired by Walcott
England looked nothing like the disciplined team Roy Hodgson is trying to build but inspired by substitute Theo Walcott they beat Sweden 3-2 in a thrilling Euro 2012 Group D match on Friday to move closer to the quarter-finals.
They showed great heart and courage when Walcott woke them up from a 10-minute meltdown to fight back from 2-1 down and Danny Welbeck's clever finish sealed their first competitive win over the Swedes who were eliminated from the tournament.
"I was very pleased with the performance of the two front players and of course Theo's contribution was enormous today," England coach Roy Hodgson told a news conference.
"To come on as a sub and score such a good goal and set up a winner he's got to be very pleased with his contribution."
The English fans were largely outnumbered in the streets of Kiev and inside the Olympic stadium but they were not silenced at the end of a dramatic game that started 15 minutes late after the France v Ukraine match was suspended for almost an hour.
England are joint top of Group D with France, who outclassed Ukraine 2-0, with the co-hosts in third place on three points and Sweden with none. England will advance if they draw with Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday.
Hodgson, in his fourth match in charge, had called on his players to show discipline and commitment against Sweden and they duly delivered, except for a mad 10 minutes when they collapsed defensively and conceded two sloppy goals.
But Walcott, on his first appearance in a major tournament, turned the game around, scoring three minutes after coming on for the ineffective James Milner on the right wing.
Walcott collected the ball just outside the box and calmly fired a fierce shot past Andreas Isaksson before whizzing down the flank to deliver a delightful cross for Danny Welbeck who diverted the ball into the net with a backheel flick 12 minutes from time.
England started well, organised in a clear 4-4-2 with Andy Carroll, brought in to exploit Sweden's weakness in the air, partnering Welbeck up front.