By JOHN BOSCHINI
In the face of lowered expectations, England is excelling at Euro 2012.
Wayne Rooney marked his return from suspension with a goal as England, with the help of a controversial refereeing decision, weathered a relentless Ukraine attack to claim a 1-0 victory, first place in Group D and a date with Italy in the quarterfinals.
Ukraine was the more dangerous side but could not find the back of the net en route to a scoreless first half, and England went ahead just after halftime. Steven Gerrard whipped a cross into the box and Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov allowed the deflected ball to slip through his hands inside the 6-yard area. Rooney was waiting at the far post to nod in from less than a foot away.
From then on Ukraine, in need of a win to advance, poured forward and created several chances. Artem Milevskiy was left all alone in front of goal but his point-blank header was too high. The moment of the match came when Marko Devic saw his effort from inside the box off a Ukraine breakaway cleared off the line by John Terry in the 62nd minute. Even with the goal-line official standing just feet from the play and not awarding a goal, replays showed the ball had crossed the line. Ukraine had been allowed to play on during that sequence despite a missed offside call as well.
Yevhen Konoplyanka forced a brilliant save from Joe Hart with a long-range effort in the 73rd minute for Ukraine's last real chance of the game, with the co-hosts, and Andriy Shevchenko, who came on as a second-half substitute, bowing out of the tournament.
In Tuesday's other Group D game:
SWEDEN 2, FRANCE 0
Some pride was restored for the Swedes as they ended a disapointing Euro campaign with a victory over France.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson provided second-half goals as France wasted a plethora of chances, notching 24 shots. Ibrahimovic gave Sweden the lead with an acrobatic volley of Larsson's cross nine minutes after the restart for one of the goals of the tournament. France should have equalized when Jeremey Menez found himself in on goal but his shot was poor and Andreas Isaksson saved.
The result was put beyond all doubt in stoppage time when Christian Wilhelmsson's cross was smashed against the bar by Samuel Holmen, but Larsson was there to put in the rebound.
Despite the loss, France advances into the quarterfinals as the runners up in Group D and will face defending World and European champion Spain.
GROUP D STANDINGS
1. England (2-0-1, 7 points, +2 GD)
2. France (1-1-1, 4 points, 0 GD)
3. Ukraine (1-2-0, 3 points, -2 GD)
4. Sweden (1-2-0, 3 points, 0 GD)
What did you think of today's games? Do you think goal-line technology is a must in the international game now? How far do you think England can go in the tournament? Are you less confident in France after their loss to Sweden? What did you think of Ukraine's showing?
Share your thoughts below.