England and France failed to impress but still advanced to the European Championship quarterfinals on Tuesday amid yet another goal-line controversy. England striker Wayne Rooney returned after a two-match ban to score in the 48th minute and secure a 1-0 win over Ukraine, a result which eliminated the Euro 2012 co-hosts.
However, Ukraine was denied an equalizer when the Hungarian match officials ruled Marko Devic’s 62nd-minute shot had not crossed the line, despite replays indicating it had. France progressed as Group D runner-up despite being beaten 2-0 by Sweden, which lost its first two matches. Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with a stunning volley in the 54th and Sebastian Larsson scored the second in stoppage time.
Superb goals have followed that of Lewandowski, including Mario Balotelli’s volley against Ireland, German Mario Gomez’s first strike against the Netherlands and Jakub Blaszczykowski’s stunning equaliser for Poland against Russia.
The quality remained until the end with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s exquisitely executed volley for Sweden against France arguably the pick of the bunch. In keeping with the exciting and unpredictable thrills of the first phase, Russia made a dramatic impact with a blistering 4-1 win over the Czech Republic but failed to advance after drawing with Poland and losing to Greece. The Greeks, shock Euro 2004 winners, caused another surprise, recovering from a draw with the Poles and defeat by the Czechs to beat Russia for their first win since the 2004 final, take an unexpected place in the quarter-finals and ease the euro zone gloom back home.
Neither co-hosts Poland or Ukraine survived the group stage, but still produced memorable moments. The Ukrainian weather also made an impact with a lightning storm forcing the suspension of Ukraine’s match with France in Donetsk for 55 minutes. Fortunately, most of the drama involved high-quality games in full stadiums and not the expected widespread trouble off the pitch except for fighting before the Poland v Russia match.
Unlike the World Cup in South Africa two years ago which produced plenty of drab uninspiring games, Euro 2012, the last to involve 16 teams before the tournament is expanded to an unwieldy 24 finalists in 2016, has been a fans’ delight. There was not a single 0-0 draw in the group stage.
Doubts about the co-hosts’ ability to stage the tournament surfaced almost from the day UEFA awarded it to them in 2007, but whatever problems there may have been leading up to kickoff, most of those fears have not materialized.
While there have been isolated outbreaks of mainly politically-inspired violence and some racism issues - the major worry for the authorities beforehand - Europe’s top players have ensured they have been the ones making the headlines.
21:45 Thursday: Czech Rep. vs. Portugal (Warsaw)
21:45 Friday: Gcermany vs. Greece (Gdansk)
21:45 Saturday: Spain vs. France (Donetsk)
21:45 Sunday: England vs. Italy (Kiev)
All times Turkish and all matches will be aired live on TRT 1 and TRT HD.