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Rooney Scores to Secure England's Passage to the Knockout Stages of Euro 2012

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Wayne Rooney marked his return from suspension with a header at the far post to beat Ukraine and set up a quarter-final showdown against Italy on Sunday.

England manager Roy Hodgson made one change from the team that beat Sweden on Friday. Andy Carroll was dropped to the bench in favour of Rooney who was eager to make up for lost time.

It was a very casual start to the game from England. Captain Steven Gerrard spoke before the game about the need to go out and win the game but in the opening 15 minutes, England were content to let Ukraine have the ball, allowing them shots from outside the box which failed to trouble keeper Joe Hart greatly.

England grew into the game after the early wave of Ukrainian pressure with Rooney coming deep to get the ball but not influencing matters enough in the attacking end of the pitch. The first real chance for England fell to Rooney when he headed wide from Ashley Young's inswinging cross. Rooney probably should have at least got the ball on target but it was a promising opening with Young looking livelier than he has done throughout the tournament.

The first half drew to close and England could be reasonably happy with their performance. It was patient but slow and predictable. A goal in the second half was badly needed to settle any nerves and silence the crowd and it came courtesy of England's returning talisman.

An England corner by Gerrard was headed clear but the ball was worked back out wide to Gerrard who shaped to come inside his man before flicking the ball down the line. Gerrard then whipped the ball towards the box, taking a deflection off two players which troubled Ukrainian keeper Andriy Pyatov, who fumbled the ball, allowing Rooney to head home on the goal line.

It was Rooney's first goal in a tournament for England since Euro 2004 when he scored against Croatia and it was a timely goal.

With Ukraine needing a win to qualify from the group, they pushed on in search of the goals that would take them through. This left gaps in the midfield which England really should have exploited but once again they were careless in possession.

Ukraine were then denied an equaliser after a long ball bypassed the England defence before eventually falling to Marko Devic whose shot was saved by Hart. The ball looped towards the line and was wonderfully cleared off the line by John Terry but replays showed the ball had crossed the line.

In the end, Ukraine ran out of ideas and England held on to victory showing resolve and a team spirit which was lacking in recent England sides.

Expectations for this England team were at an all time low coming into the tournament but Hodgson has galvanised this group players together and you could see that from their reaction at full-time with a huddle around Gerrard and Terry.

Gerrard has been England's outstanding player in the tournament and finally looks at home in an England shirt. He has been at the forefront of everything good that England have done, providing three assists, working tirelessly to close down the opposition and showing his authority and leadership skills at every opportunity. For England to stand a chance of reaching the semi finals, Gerrard will need to lift his team and be at his very best because Italy will be England's hardest test so far.

Compared to previous Italian teams, the 2012 edition has shown a more flexible and attacking approach to their play and it earned them plaudits for their draw against Spain. Marshalled superbly by Andrea Pirlo and with the unpredictable Mario Balotelli in their ranks, Italy have the ability to punish England for their wastefulness in possession.

For England, they have made themsleves difficult to beat but they must be brave and show much greater intent going forward because conservatism won't help them against the Italians. If England lose to Italy having taken a safety first approach, they will leave Euro 2012 with regret and think what might have been.