It’s most perturbing to be a Englishman this summer. After years of watching teams packed with dormant talent performing wildly below their potential, I don’t really know what to make of this lot.
They’re not really very good at football, but they do seem to try hard and that’s all I’ve ever asked as a supporter. It’s actually a lot like watching Leyton Orient, this.
More than enough has been written about those ‘two banks of four’ for me to give tactics a wide berth this week. England’s strength – and I’m being serious here – is their mental fortitude. No, really. To come back from 1-2 down to Sweden when I believed them to be down and out was genuinely impressive.
They don’t panic, they don’t crumble and if they carry on like this, forging decent results in the white heat of pressure, they might just secure the pre-tournament aim of a dignified quarter-final exit.
Of course, the last two matches will mean nothing at all if they lose to Andriy Shevchenko and his cronies in the final game. It’s certainly going to be a risky encounter, especially with that home support.
That said, I’m starting to feel an odd sense of confidence in Roy Hodgson’s mob, a weird vibe that they might be able to stand in front of tens of thousands of baying hostiles and hold the line. I realise, of course, that believing in the English football team is a phenomenon that almost always precedes a crashing disappointment and weeks of self-loathing, but what the hell.
Yes, The Three Lions can get the draw they need to progress to the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. In fact, sod it, they can sneak a 1-0 win. There, I’ve said it. Oh God, what’s become of me?
Score prediction: England 1-0 Ukraine
England to win at 2.05; England 1-0 at 8.00; Wayne Rooney to score first at 5.75.
The equation for Ukraine is simple: beat England and qualify for the quarter finals or fall at the first hurdle. Without wanting to sound obvious, the key to making that prospect a reality is one man – Andriy Shevchenko. Without the quality of service that the former AC Milan star received in the 2-1 win over Sweden, the Ukrainians looked tame opponents.
Wide men Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka saw little of the ball and when they had the opportunity, their service was woeful. Even so, Shevchenko created his side’s best chances, almost from nothing, and the co-hosts’ fans will be desperately hoping that the national hero isn’t struggling for fitness after two games in a week.
Assuming his captain and main threat is fit, Oleh Blokhin may well be considering some changes in personnel ahead of this match. Andriy Voronin was far from effective against France and might lose his spot in the team to the more physical Artem Milevskiy.