By Nate Jacobson
Several streets in the center of Madrid had a British feel on Friday night after England defeated Sweden 3-2 in dramatic fashion.
Before the match England fans, most of vacation for the weekend in Madrid, gathered in Irish pubs and other bars to watch France play Ukraine. They mixed in with French fans to see a 2-0 France victory. The game was suspended for 55 minutes due to lighting and heavy rain. After the restart France took control and scored two second half goals within three minutes. France fans in the Irish pub named Dubliners chanted and sang songs as their team is on the verge of making the quarterfinals.
The French departed and more England fans filled Dubliners. The supporters of the Three Lions were optimistic ahead of a huge match. The Sweden game was must-win for England because they drew France 1-1 four days earlier. The draw was mission accomplished for England who played Roy Hodgson’s style and scored a goal off a set piece. It wasn’t the most exciting match, but one that Hodgson and England were happy with. However, anything less than three points against Sweden would make cancel out any satisfaction from the France game.
England started well and scored when Liverpool teammates Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll connected. Gerrard delivered a cross to Carroll, and the big center striker headed the ball to the lower corner. Halftime was a mixed reaction from England fans in and outside Dubliners. Some were very happy and began to sing the Beatles song “Hey Jude” and chanted positive words about the England captain Gerrard. Other England fans knew Sweden would push up because it was a must-win game for the Swedes as well.
England failed to weather the storm and gave up two goals early in the second. Both were off set pieces and all of a sudden Sweden was beating England at their own style. The Spanish fans and any remaining French fans in the bar made noise and started cheering when Sweden took the lead.
Then the match changed when England made a brilliant coaching decision. Hodgson brought on Theo Walcott for James Milner on the right wing. Soon after taking the pitch Walcott scored a much-needed goal from outside the box that took a deflection and froze the Sweden goalkeeper. Walcott was part of the winner when his low cross found Danny Welbeck and the young Manchester United striker back heeled the ball into the net. This was the goal of the tournament so far, in my opinion, but more importantly England retook the lead. England held on to win and their supporters chanted throughout the night in Madrid.
If England avoids losing to Ukraine on Tuesday then they are through to the quarterfinals. It won’t be easy against the host, but Wayne Rooney is eligible. This will be a big boost and now the decision is where to put him? Carroll played very well in his first match of the tournament and Welbeck is a speedy player who just scored a terrific goal. Rooney and Welbeck have been a successful duo at Manchester United, so Carroll likely is the odd man out. A more radical plan is to play Welbeck, Carroll and Rooney and sit an ineffective Ashley Young. England only need a draw so starting three forwards wouldn’t make sense, but some England fans want Young demoted to a bench role. England fans also want Walcott to replace Milner in the starting 11. If Walcott is healthy he will certainly find a starting spot. His pace could be vital against a pedestrian Ukraine defense.
Sweden is left to play for pride on Tuesday when they meet France. Both Group D games will be played at the same time. England has set themselves up for a big night of celebration for English fans all over the world.
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