Changes Paid-Off For France And England

Back in the day, France and England tied 1-1 in what probably stands as the tournament's least entertaining game, while Ukraine was carried to the top of Group D by a sumptuous double from Andriy Shevchenko, beating Sweden. "We can't play like that against a very good team," said French coach Laurent Blanc afterwards. "I'm glad to get this game out of the way," said the English manager Roy Hodgson. "No one is happy and we grieve together," said the Swedish boss Erik Hamren. The only thing to stay the same in Group D on Friday was another defeat for the Swedes.

Blanc changed his starting XI for Friday's storm-delayed match against Ukraine, most notably pulling out the ineffective Florent Malouda and replacing him with PSG's Jeremy Menez. France did not have it all its own way, but Menez played a crucial part in the fast-moving front line that ranged in and around the Ukraine defense like big cats stalking a herd of antelope, and could have had the ball in the net three times before eventually cutting inside the Ukraine left back Yevhen Selin and stroking the ball into the bottom corner shortly after half time. Yohann Cabaye doubled the lead a few minutes later, lifting Les Bleus to top spot.

Having been criticized for a deep and defensive England display on Monday, Hodgson also changed his starting line up, bringing in Andy Carroll up front and shifting Ashley Young in to a wide/roving role. For which he was also criticized, pre-game, despite the changes fitting almost perfectly with Sweden's weakness to the aerial threat that Carroll, when supplied from wide areas by the likes of Young, poses. Halfway through the first half the switch looked to have paid off, as the Liverpool striker leapt to meet a fine Steven Gerrard cross and sent a powerful header beyond Andreas Isaksson.

When England fell behind, then, to a Glen Johnson own goal and an unmarked Olof Mellberg header, Hodgson's immediate reaction was to throw on Theo Walcott, who appeared for just a minute at the end of Monday's game. Instantly England was transformed. Walcott scored with his third or fourth touch, volleying beyond Isaksson from distance before setting up Danny Welbeck's magnificent winning goal. This was a somewhat lunatic game, but the manager who can't win figuratively engineered a literal victory that sees England second to France on goal difference.

Ukraine 0 - 2 France


Sweden 2 - 3 England

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