England Expects

Welbeck or Carroll, one will make way for the returning Wayne Rooney. Photo courtesy Watford FC

A dark cloud of negativity loomed over England at the start of their Euro 2012 campaign. Doubts were loudly expressed about Roy Hodgson's capabilities as coach, which two pretty uninspiring 1-0 warm-up wins did little to change. Once the injury jinx struck, ruling out the likes of Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill, England's new supremo was further slated for not calling up Manchester United's ageing defender Rio Ferdinand to the squad.

All these negatives seem to have disappeared on the back of a battling 1-1 draw against fancied France and Friday's brave come-from-behind victory against the Swedes. Suddenly an air of expectation is palpable amongst English followers and the media.

From painful experience, this state of affairs amid rising media hype is normally about the time where it gets dangerous for England, who can seal a quarter-final spot if they avoid defeat against co-hosts Ukraine.

Theo Walcott will be hoping to start in Donetsk's Donbass Arena after making a stunning impact off the substitutes' bench in England's previous clash with Sweden. The Three Lions trailed 2-1 when the Arsenal winger was introduced, turning the game on its head by scoring a swerving equaliser and then setting up Danny Welbeck for a delightful winning goal.

That 3-2 success means England only need a point against Ukraine to ensure progression to the quarter-finals. England will be extra keen to win this match and ultimately the group to avoid a potential meeting with reigning champions Spain. France tackle Sweden in the other group clash. England must better France's result to head the group and line-up a more winnable quarter final against the unpredictable Italians.

England can also prepare to welcome Wayne Rooney back from a two-match suspension. According to most sage pundits, Manchester United's Rooney is England's only true world-class player. Hodgson faces a tricky decision over whom to leave out to accommodate Rooney, with Liverpool's Andy Carroll scoring a first-half bullet header against Sweden.

Meanwhile, Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko has been rated doubtful for the crunch clash. Shevchenko is now 35 but he showed his class in netting twice in the 2-1 win over Sweden. The former Chelsea and AC Milan striker is having extensive treatment on a knee injury but may play through the pain barrier as the co-hosts need a win to qualify.

Prediction: Ukraine 1 England 1


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