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Euro 2012: England wins group despite controversy, France advances despite loss

TerryClear (Getty Images)


In the face of lowered expectations, England is excelling at Euro 2012.

Wayne Rooney marked his return from suspension with a goal as England, with the help of a controversial refereeing decision, weathered a relentless Ukraine attack to claim a 1-0 victory, first place in Group D and a date with Italy in the quarterfinals.

Ukraine was the more dangerous side but could not find the back of the net en route to a scoreless first half, and England went ahead just after halftime. Steven Gerrard whipped a cross into the box and Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov allowed the deflected ball to slip through his hands inside the 6-yard area. Rooney was waiting at the far post to nod in from less than a foot away.

From then on Ukraine, in need of a win to advance, poured forward and created several chances. Artem Milevskiy was left all alone in front of goal but his point-blank header was too high. The moment of the match came when Marko Devic saw his effort from inside the box off a Ukraine breakaway cleared off the line by John Terry in the 62nd minute. Even with the goal-line official standing just feet from the play and not awarding a goal, replays showed the ball had crossed the line. Ukraine had been allowed to play on during that sequence despite a missed offside call as well.  

Yevhen Konoplyanka forced a brilliant save from Joe Hart with a long-range effort in the 73rd minute for Ukraine's last real chance of the game, with the co-hosts, and Andriy Shevchenko, who came on as a second-half substitute, bowing out of the tournament.

In Tuesday's other Group D game:


Some pride was restored for the Swedes as they ended a disapointing Euro campaign with a victory over France. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson provided second-half goals as France wasted a plethora of chances, notching 24 shots. Ibrahimovic gave Sweden the lead with an acrobatic volley of Larsson's cross nine minutes after the restart for one of the goals of the tournament. France should have equalized when Jeremey Menez found himself in on goal but his shot was poor and Andreas Isaksson saved.

The result was put beyond all doubt in stoppage time when Christian Wilhelmsson's cross was smashed against the bar by Samuel Holmen, but Larsson was there to put in the rebound.

Despite the loss, France advances into the quarterfinals as the runners up in Group D and will face defending World and European champion Spain. 


1. England (2-0-1, 7 points, +2 GD)

2. France (1-1-1, 4 points, 0 GD)

3. Ukraine (1-2-0, 3 points, -2 GD)

4. Sweden (1-2-0, 3 points, 0 GD)


What did you think of today's games? Do you think goal-line technology is a must in the international game now? How far do you think England can go in the tournament? Are you less confident in France after their loss to Sweden? What did you think of Ukraine's showing?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. And Ukraine’s offsides?

    IMO if there is a reason “Americans will never embrace soccer” it’s not because of bad calls. It’s because this sport continues to be marketed and promoted as a “foreign” sport rather than simply a sport that we want to compete and excel in. If SOME American soccer fans weren’t so self-loathing and in awe of Europe and Latin America, perhaps they’d ask themselves why other sports not born in the US like Hockey, Tennis or Golf are not regarded as foreign sports… oddly even in a post modern and globalized US, Soccer is.

  2. “coulda, woulda, shoulda” There is nothing to it. It is your opinion. The fact is it isn’t a goal. That is a shame, considering the evidence, but the undeniable fact of the game. That “goal” (in isolation) doesn’t win Ukraine advancement. Inserting hypotheticals as F-A-C-T is ludicrous. What effect it would have had is UNKNOWABLE.

  3. The extra official doesn’t understand soccer very well. If you look at where his head is positioned, he is on the field side of the post. Given that the whole ball has to cross the whole line, he should be looking from the other side of the post so that he can tell when this happens. He was positioned a few inches off, but that made the difference on a close call like this. Instant replay wouldn’t have been necessary if he had been positioned well on the back side of the post.

  4. I agree with you here, though it should obviously be for hot fans of all nations. I hate it when the camera focuses on a player after he made some play, while the ball is in play and something might be happening but we can’t see it. But I also get annoyed when they show just a brief shot of a hot fan, and then they go back to showing the boring soccer game, when the fan in the stands is far more interesting.

  5. Replays and cameras should only be used to spot hot Ukrainian fans in the crowd. There cameramen did a wonderful job at this yesterday.

    Anyone remember seeing the blond in the white tank top?

    Anyway, extra cameras have thier place at futbol matches.

  6. “Baseball was hardly fair during the steroid era,”

    We don’t know that since we do not know who was using and to what extent. Nor has it been shown just exactly how steriods affected each individual performance.

    If everyone was juiced then there is no advantage to a juicer.

    And Northzax isn’t attackng soccer, he’s just saying American fans can’t accept the nature of the sport and hence are constantly seeking to alter it to fit their perceptions of “fairness”. An extension of the “everyone must win a trophy” mentality.

    Athletic endeavor is always going to have an element of unfairness to it. The very essence of having a winning organization, no matter the sport, is to tilt things your way as much as is possible within the rules.

    Soccer is just a lot more obviously unfair than many sports.

  7. Baseball was hardly fair during the steroid era, and it was greatly embraced by American media and fans. I do agree that things need to be changed as far as technology, but you should probably stop following the sport if you can’t appreciate its ups and downs.

  8. England won their group without playing well. Doesn’t say much for the teams in their group. The teams advancing deserve it.

  9. Unlike Spain or Germany or even France and Italy, this England squad came together basically just a month or two before the Euros.

    They have a brand new manager who scares no one,lost quite a few options to injury and controversy and had their best player for only two of the three games.

    It would have been quite understandable if they had not qualified but instead they seem to have settled down, kept it simple and seem to be getting better every game. As a team they basically defend very well for the most part, something the USMNT, as a team, rarely do and should study.

    Right now, in terms of expectations, they have already exceeded them, so they really have nothing to lose. This, of course, makes them dangerous.

    France, Sweden and Ukraine, based on what I saw in these games were pretty flaccid teams,talented but with little purpose, drive or organization at least against England.

    Far less talented than a team like the Netherlands,England were the only team in the group that displayed any cojones, something the Dutch, who are going home in shame as they should, are missing.

    Maybe you would prefer those stylish pretty boy Dutch divas, but I prefer teams that come to play.

    I get that England are not pleasing to your eye and the road only gets tougher from here but that is basically what everyone said about Chelsea and every other underdog who ever won or did well in a tournament.

    Just because John Terry is a jerk, it doesn’t mean he can’t get it done on the field. Style is not the same as substance; how’s that for a relevant cliche?

    Just look at England’s roster; not the most talented bunch but many of their guys are not exactly strangers to winning things under big time circumstances. If they get past Italy, no one will really want to play them.

    As I said, they have a chance to be dangerous.

  10. Nice….compounding hypotheticals…what a w(h)inning argument.

    We all know goal line technology needs to be put into place for major tournaments. Dabbling in parallel realities does no good.

  11. You know, this is the reason Americans will never embrace soccer. The sport is unfair. We like our sports orderly, where the aggressor is rewarded, ad the team that plays obviously better (in the general consensus) wins. We don’t like that one second, out of 90 minutes, can decide the result, unless of course, it’s the last second. We think both sides should get an equal number of chances, and the side that finishes those chances better, wins. Baseball? 27 outs. Basketball: dozens of possessions. Football: equal numbers of drives. But soccer isn’t like that. Sometimes you only get one chance, and you win. Sometimes you take twenty more shots and lose. Sometimes you play brilliantly and don’t win. That’s the game. It’s unfair. A missed call, and you’re done. One slip, and you’re done. One moment of brilliance, and you’re through. It’s what makes the game what it is. Just like life, it’s unfair.

    Did Ukraine deserve to lose? In the American ethos, no. They played a more traditionally ‘better’ game. But they didn’t win. C’est la vie. The game’s heartbreaking sometimes. We want sport to be fair, but soccer isn’t, and everytime we add technology to see if we can make it more fair, some of that drama vanishes.

  12. heh, that’s gotta be one of my favorite attempts at an argument: the first incident doesn’t matter because it was just a missed call, but the second incident totally matters because a call was missed. Good point, well made.

  13. One more thing. Every immediately counted goal should be reviewed automatically during the resulting celebration to make sure it went in and that it did not directly result from an offside play, e.g., the goal scorer was not offside on the goal, and any player making an assist one step removed from the goal was not offside on the pass. If it either are true, its a goal kick.

  14. Simple solution. Every shot near the line gets reviewed by a booth offical automatically while play continues normally. The booth official has 45 seconds to signal the ref as to the right call, e.g. irrefutable evidence of a goal, or no goal. If a deadball situation arises before the decision, play is stopped naturally until a decision is communicated. If a goal is awarded, the ref blows the whistle and everyone stops and goes to the center as normal. If no goal is awarded, play continues as normal (whether from the deadball situation or from active play) with no whistle (maybe a wave indicating no goal). This solution keeps play “live” in its natural state so no one is disadvantaged while a decision is reached, but if a goal is counted, no goal (from either side) made during the brief decision period counts because that goal would not have scored had the decision been immediate. You don’t need fancy technology to solve this problem.

  15. Yes, this is just my opinion. But all three opponents had better possession and more goal scoring chances. I know that possession and good combination play do not always translate into wins, but they usually do. Sweden and Ukraine squandered many opportunities and made some defensive mistakes, so maybe they did not deserve to advance, as you say. I would not have faulted England if they played this style against Spain or Germany, but it’s not like they were in the group of death. Congratulations to England for advancing and avoiding Spain, but Italy is a much better side than people give it credit for.

  16. England got the results, but they did not play better. It is true that positive soccer does not always get 3 points, but surrendering possession and playing reactive soccer against the likes of Sweden and Ukraine is not something to be proud of. Yes, England advanced, but a better quality opponent will punish England’s lack of creativity and technical deficiencies. They may have gotten away with it against lesser teams, but a stronger opponent will punish them.

  17. Oh stop it… you can’t have it both ways. Who’s to say if the goal had counted and even with a rejuvenated Ukraine that England would not have responded in kind and scored another goal or two themselves. Goal Line Technology is the start of a slippery slope that I hope NEVER comes into the game. Had the goal counted and it actually mattered to the group England and others would be screaming to the heavens for vid tech for the offsides. I’ll admit that goal line tech sounds reasonable but it opens a pandora’s box that might never be closed. Leave decisions with the ref and officials on the pitch.

  18. So in your eyes, one missed call dosen’t matter and the other one does? How ya figure? Not that I care much personally, just seems to be a biased contradiction…

  19. Clearly that no goal was a goal. The non offside call is another argument. Here’s a thought Time for old man Sepp to join the new techno wave. Ireally think it’s time to have instant replay? I suggest ea coach has a max of 2 challenges 1 in ea half. Once he challenges a play, a 4th official in a box (away from the crowd) watches the replay and tells the ref what transpired. The ref makes the call and the game continues. This will barely hold up the game since the coach must use his so called “challenge” wisely, because once he has spent it it is gone, no matter how poor the ref’s call may be? I think IMHO that this would be a step to “getting it right”

  20. “all three of their opponents played better, more positive soccer.”

    That is your opinion, one not shared by everyone. What is this American Idol?

    Two of England’s three opponents are out, going home.

    From what I saw of Sweden and Ukraine, they did not deserve to advance. They could not beat this poor England side. On that basis alone they deserve their fate.

    England got the necessary points, they did what they needed to do. And they topped the group which means they avoided Spain. Job done.

    Since most everyone expected them to crash and burn, I say they exceeded expectations.

    Maybe not by much but in this case, a miss is as good as a mile.

  21. “…but all three of their opponents played better, more positive soccer.”

    “Positive soccer” doesn’t always get three points. England is moving on while two of their three opponents are staying behind. Who played better? England.

  22. Hence the “where will it end” side of the argument.

    Cameras already show many fouls, most notably shirt pulling, that have a direct effect on whether a goal is scored.

    Had Balotelli failed to score against Ireland, Italy would have been justified in asking for a shirt pulling foul on O’Shea and the resulting penalty and red card. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe they were both in the penalty box.

    Germany got away with that against Denmark as well.

    If you believe Ukraine deserved that goal then it would be hypocritical to say Denmark did not deserve their penalty the other day or that Italy would not have deserved one had Balotelli missed.

    It’s a slippery slope.

  23. No, that’s not a hand ball. He’s looks like an idiot but never intentionally touched it with his hand. He’s actually just trying to get out of the way.

    Are we really going to go back and knit pick every little call/no call that ‘gave England the game?’

    Listen I wanted to see Ukraine advance, but England had a gameplan, stuck to it, and won the group. Simple.

  24. SBI, with due respect, “excelling at Euro 2012” is a poor way to describe this England’s team. They got the results, were quite lucky, arguably got some help from the refs, but the quality of their soccer was rather poor. England did well on the scoreboard, but all three of their opponents played better, more positive soccer.

  25. Bingo. You can’t say that it wasn’t offsides because the ref didn’t call it, then call it a goal when the ref doesn’t award it.

    It was offsides, so the goal that wasn’t never should have been. Everything worked out.

    That said, they really do need goaline technology.

    And if there is a offside flag raised that leads to a scoring chance, the play should be allowed to continue and if it leads to a goal, go to the tape as well. No reason you can’t do that. It may come up once or at most twice in a game so it won’t slow anything down.

  26. There’s no connection between whether an offside was missed and if a goal was actually scored.

    Play stops the moment the ball crosses the goal line. It’s a goal.

  27. Ridiculous.



    The goal wasn’t counted by the referee, so whether it was in or not doesn’t matter since it wasn’t called. Ukraine are sitting at home right now because they didn’t do enough to win.

  28. You assume that the goal would not have had any effect on the momentum and tactics in the game. There was plenty of time to add a second one and England’s defense would have been under a lot more pressure, knowing that they no longer have any cushion. And Ukraine would have only gained more confidence and fed from the crowd that would have gone wild. You probably saw what Ronaldo’s first goal did to the Netherlands’ confidence. And England is very similar to the Dutch in that they usually fall apart under pressure in big tournaments. Their 1966 team was the lone exception.

  29. That Scott Parker crawling around on the ground play from the first half was a hand ball in the box and should have been a Ukranian penalty kick. The score should have been 2-1 Ukraine, and that scoreline would have been flattering to this crappy England team.

  30. England never got going as a attacking unit, and it was down to Ukraine and the way they pressed and kept our full backs and wingers at bay. We will have to wait a little longer to see the real talent and movement that the Manchester United front three will give the team. Reactive football suits England. We are heading up against a team who are masters at it along with knowing where the goal is; Italy will be a lot tougher than the media is giving them credit for. Credit should go to England even if we do get knocked out, as making it through the group stage is a good achievement. Let’s hope we do more of a Greece than a Chelsea, who played terribly and rode their luck. We were very fortunate today with the goal that wasn’t given because as with England, as we know, if it wasn’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all. England have reached the light at the end of the tunnel and will feel they can push on now. The future can be bright, the future can be Red and White.

  31. While this is TRUE and I’m glad the result doesn’t change who stays and who goes, I hate to see such a mistake at this level and find it unacceptable

    While i hate the idea of cameras making the call as in our football, I think in a tournament, there should be some way of sorting out something like this so that some country isn’t ripped off by a human failure. I’m glad in this case that it didn’t matter

  32. I hope this proves to both UEFA and FIFA once again, that video line technology is the answer and not an additional ref by the goal line. It turned ok in this instance due to the missed offside call by the bonehead linesman but it might not be ok next time.

  33. Here’s the problem, England would have won the group with 5 points (a tie) given Rooney’s goal, Ukraine still loses the head-to-head with France.

    It doesn’t matter.

  34. Ridiculous.



    No offside flag went up, so whether or not he was doesn’t matter since it wasn’t called. That was a goal. England should be sitting at home right now and rightfully so given their play.


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