France 2, Ukraine 0 – As the day The Nothing almost swallowed Donetsk. At some intercity elementary school, a boy who loves to draw unicorns cut class to read an oversized book he stole from an vintage bookseller. He soon realized that he was the president of UEFA and all he had to do to stop a cataclysmic storm (symbolizing corruption) from taking down Euro 2012 was run to the window and call out the name of the new FIFA president. After a 55 minute rail delay, he did that, and France went on to a comfortable victory.
England 3, Sweden 2 – As the day Danny Welbeck scored that goal. And when we remember it, somebody else will chime in: “And … that won the match.” True. Then the guy you’ll force to buy then next round will feel like saying something: “I was going to that game but decided to do Germany and the Netherlands instead.” Man, that guy sucks.
Team of the Day
G: Andriy Pyatov, Ukraine
LB: Martin Olssen, Sweden
CB: Yevhen Khacheridi, Ukraine
CB: Philippe Mexes, France
RB: Mathieu Debuchy, France
DM: Alou Diarra, France
M: Yoann Cabaye, France
M: Steven Gerrard, England
LW: Franck Ribery, France
AM/F: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
ST: Karim Benzema, France
Subs: Theo Walcott, England; Danny Welbeck, England; John Terry, England
Three lessons to take home
1. Change is good – Friday’s winners made changes that paid off. France switched from the 4-3-3 that played without balance to a 4-2-3-1 that produced a lot more fluidity. The result was some strong left-to-right play that build Jeremy Menez’s opening goal (and right-to-left play that produced Yoann Cabaye’s).
England brought in Andy Carroll to attack a Sweden defense that allowed two headed goals against Ukraine. The move paid off with the opener.
Roy Hodgson’s second change was bringing on Theo Walcott before the hour-mark. He responded with a goal before assisting on the game winner.
Not all change is good, though. Sweden made more lineup changes than anybody (three) and couldn’t stave off elimination.
2. One man is no team at all – We saw how little Sweden offered in support of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and we saw how Zlatan reacted. By the end of the game his didn’t even want to look at his teammates, let alone to pass to them. At whatever point in the game Zlatan decided to go rogue, Erik Hamrén should have just pulled his team off the field and had Eric Taylor tell the official they forfeit. After that, there was no point.
Andriy Shevchenko was less dramatic, but he was also abandoned. Andrei Voronin, ostensibly Ukraine’s other forward, was more mindful of helping in midfield than he was supporting the Shevchenko. Long balls out of the back twice got Sheva chances on Adil Rami, but for the most part Ukraine forgot about their captain.
Two goals from dead balls helped Sweden stay close, but without help around their stars, neither the Swedes nor Ukrainians were viable.
3. Modern soccer fields are amazing – The citizens of Donetsk must not gotten on the wrong side of Mother Nature. She seemed to turn on the faucet above Donbass Arena before leaving to get caught up on The Daily Show and Colbert.
While the players were back in the locker rooms, pulled off because of a lightning threat, water flooded the pitch. Come 12:30 p.m. Eastern, each groundskeeper’s step was met with a splash.
Thirty minutes later, the field was ready to go. I’m sorry. Let me start that again.
Thirty minutes later, the field was ready to go? Something about pitches being mostly sand and modern drainage – I have no idea. Seemed pretty miraculous to me. Not only was the field ready, it wasn’t even a factor. The match played on as if nothing had happened.
Modern soccer fields and amazing.
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