June 15, 2012
England scores in bunches — without Rooney
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
KIEV - This time it wasn't Wayne Rooney unleashing a missile that would bring glory to England.
He was suspended.
This time it wasn't Frank Lampard bobbing and weaving his way through defences before planting the ball into the back of an opponent's net with authority.
He was injured.
This time it wasn't Steven Gerrard willing his team to victory with the type of spectacular goal that was his signature earlier in his illustrious career.
He was more architect than finisher on this night.
No, this time it was the Three Cubs who led the Three Lions to victory, a dramatic 3-2 comeback Friday over the disheartened Swedes that now has England on the cusp of advancing to the final eight.
"If you are a team that wants to move ahead, not just in the present but in the future, you can't just rely on two or three guys all the time," Roy Hodgson, serving just his fourth game as English manager, said.
Too often in the past, England had fallen into that trap, putting its hopes on Rooney and Lampard and other members of the so-called "Golden Generation" of players who, while so full of promise, never banded together to win a Euro or a World Cup.
Not this time.
This time, it was the Three Cubs who put the team on their back.
Hear them roar.
From pubs in London to Liverpool, they probably could on this night.
The Three Cubs are Theo Walcott, Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck. They are the future of the national team.
Then again, the way they played Friday, maybe the future is now.
Walcott is 23. So is Carroll. Welbeck is the baby of the group at 21. That youth has to bring excitement to an English fan base that captain Gerrard admitted probably didn't have very high expectations for this edition of the English side.
They do now.
It was Carroll who opened the scoring in the first half, leaving his feet to deliver a perfect header into the back of the Swedish net to put England up 1-0.
But with England, nothing ever comes easy. And it wouldn't on this night.
Indeed, the Swedes came roaring out of the gate in the second half by scoring twice in 10 minutes to go up 2-1, appearing to have all the momentum.
But in the 61st minute, Hodgson made a move that would be the key moment of the match, making a substitution and bringing on Walcott.
Three minutes later, Walcott, as Hodgson would later say, "made his manager look good" by launching a screamer from just outside the box that was slightly deflected before bulging the back of the Swedish net.
Then, in the 78th minute, Walcott made a nifty run down the right, slicing through the Swedish defence before delivering a pass to Welbeck. The kid from Man. U,, with a Swedish defender blanketed over him and his body contorted and twisted like a pretzel, somehow managed to flick it into the net with a cheeky deflection with his right boot.
Suddenly the Three Lions found themselves up 3-2, courtesy of the Three Cubs.
"I knew Theo would try to get the ball to me," Welbeck said. "I knew what I had to do."
Wolcott, meanwhile, was humble in his self-analysis.
"I don't know if I'm a difference-maker," he said. "We are all a family on this team."
A family that is getting younger.
And a family that is on the doorstep of going to the quarterfinals.
All the English need is one point Tuesday against Ukraine to do that. In the end, they control their own fate. That's all any manager can ask for.
By the way, England will have that Wayne guy back for that game.
Nice luxury to have.
Come to think of it, so is having the Three Cubs on your roster.