England eliminates Sweden from Euros with 3-2 win

Theo Walcott finally got his chance at the European

Championship, and he only needed three minutes to make it

count.

Walcott scored shortly after coming on as a substitute and then

set up Danny Welbeck for a sublime winner as England rallied for an

entertaining 3-2 win over Sweden on Friday.

The result eliminated Sweden from the European Championship and

put England on course for the quarterfinals. The English only need

a draw against co-host Ukraine in the final group game to

advance.

”Just to make my first appearance in such a high-profile arena

it just means so much to me,” Walcott said. ”It’s been a long

time waiting and hopefully there’ll be more to come from me.”

Walcott was overlooked for his younger Arsenal teammate Alex

Oxlade-Chamberlain in England’s opening game of the tournament,

only coming on in injury time, and again began on the bench on

Friday in favor of James Milner and Ashley Young. But after England

wasted a halftime lead to fall behind 2-1 against a Sweden team

desperate for a victory, coach Roy Hodgson turned to Walcott in the

61st minute.

Three minutes later, Walcott had put England level with a

swerving shot from distance after a corner was headed out to the

speedy winger outside the area.

He followed that up by breaking into the area and sending a low

cross to Welbeck, who flicked a backheel past a diving Andreas

Isaksson in the 78th to give England its first win over Sweden in a

competitive game in eight tries.

”It was a very clever finish,” Hodgson said. ”It was goal

worthy, in my opinion, of winning the game.”

England gets Wayne Rooney back in the next game after a

suspension, but with Walcott and Andy Carroll both putting in

strong performances, Hodgson will a tough decision as to who will

be on the bench.

”We all know the ability Theo has got and that’s the same right

across the squad, so whoever comes on the pitch is going to make a

difference,” Welbeck said. ”I’m very happy for Theo.”

After a 1-1 draw against France, Friday’s victory may silence

some of the critics who thought England had become too

defensive-minded under Hodgson as it proved that it can score goals

when it needs to.

”We felt, from the first game, that we wanted to pick it up a

bit more offensively,” Walcott said. ”And if you score three

goals that’s the main thing.”

Sweden, for its part, let a second-half lead slip away for the

second game in a row after falling 2-1 to Ukraine in its opener.

While the Swedes put in a much-improved performance on Friday, they

once again failed to shut their opponents down defensively.

”I thought we were a much better team than them,” Sweden

captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. ”We’ve taken the lead in two

games now after 60 minutes and then lost it. … But today we

played exactly the way we want to play.”

In a game that featured plenty of chances for both sides,

Carroll had given England the halftime lead with a powerful header

in the 23rd minute that showed exactly why Hodgson elected to start

the tall Liverpool forward up front. Carroll got between two

defenders to meet Steven Gerrard’s cross into the area as Sweden

was once again exposed in the air.

But Sweden fought back through an unlikely source in Mellberg,

whose shot past Joe Hart was pushed into the net by Glen Johnson.

The veteran defender, who has said he will quit international

football after this tournament, then rose highest to meet a long

free kick from Sebastian Larsson to put the Swedes ahead in the

59th.

”It was a cracking game of football,” Hodgson said. ”We were

reasonably comfortable at halftime and had a good control of the

game before they rocked us on our heels.”

But Walcott then started the English comeback when a corner was

headed out to the Arsenal winger outside the area and his shot

wrong-footed Isaksson, who was falling the wrong way and flailing

with his arms as he watched the ball fly into the middle of the

net.

”They were much more effective than we were,” Sweden coach

Erik Hamren said. ”I’m really proud of the players. We showed the

mentality and the attitude I wanted to see. … But to win games

you need also a little bit of luck.”

Lineups:

Sweden: Andreas Isaksson, Andreas Granqvist (Mikael Lustig, 66),

Olof Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Anders Svensson, Kim

Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson, Rasmus Elm (Christian Wilhelmsson,

81), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Johan Elmander (Markus Rosenberg, 79).

England: Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard,

John Terry, Andy Carroll, Ashley Young, Joleon Lescott, James

Milner (Theo Walcott, 61), Scott Parker, Danny Welbeck (Alex

Oxlade-Chamberlain, 90).