England hope the entrance of Wayne Rooney will seal the exit of Ukraine as Roy Hodgson’s side aim to wrap up qualification for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals tonight.
Rooney’s return from suspension will give England an extra jolt of optimism as they seek the point they need to clinch a last-eight place. A fully-fit Rooney is champing at the bit to enter the fray after serving his two-match ban for being sent off in England’s final qualifier last year. The striker has ruled out England playing for a draw despite the fact that a point would be enough to secure their passage to the last eight.
“Obviously I’m delighted to be back and to be involved again,” said Rooney. “It will be the same as the first two games, we’ll go into the game wanting the three points. I think we’re good enough to win.”
Hodgson believes England will benefit from the experience of last Friday in Kiev, where an estimated 20,000 Swedish fans drowned out England’s smaller band of around 4,000 supporters to create a hostile atmosphere.
“We’re getting used to playing away from home,” said the England boss. “That’s what happens – when you get drawn into a pool with the host nation you have to accept you’re literally playing away from home.”
Shevchenko vary of English threat
Ukraine captain Andrei Shevchenko, who faces a late fitness test before the match, said the hosts would have to raise their game if they are to seal qualification to the last-eight.
“We know if we can beat England, we’ll qualify,” said Shevchenko. “We’ll have to play much better than we did against France. England are definitely one of the most dangerous teams here.”
France confident ahead of Swedish test
France are looking to end a six year hiatus of failing to qualify for the knockout stages of a major finals and get the result they need against already eliminated Sweden.
The French could even lose and go through should England, who they lead on goal-difference in the group with both on four points, beat co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk.
However, France coach Laurent Blanc said there was no question of slipping into a mindset that the game was already won and their place in the last-eight assured.
“We know just how hard it is to win a match at a major tournament like this,” said Blanc. “We still need something from the third game. There is no way we are going to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stay humble and realistic. We played well to beat Ukraine in the last match. That’s good, but it won’t change the way we prepare for the Sweden match.”
France manager Laurent Blanc
“We know just how hard it is to win a match at a major tournament. We still need something from the third game. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stay humble.”
Ukraine captain Andrei Shevchenko
“We’ll have to play much better than we did against France if we want to beat England. They are definitely one of the most dangerous teams here and we need to be vary of them.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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