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Steven Beacom: England couldn't, could they?

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DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19:  John Terry of England clears an effort from  Marko Devic of Ukraine off the line during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19: John Terry of England clears an effort from Marko Devic of Ukraine off the line during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Laurence Griffiths

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19: John Terry of England clears an effort from Marko Devic of Ukraine off the line during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

They couldn't, could they? Go on and win the thing I mean. Still unlikely I know but suddenly England becoming European champions does not appear as outrageous or laughable as it did when this fascinating tournament began.

Roy Hodgson's men are in the last eight — and momentum is building.

More important than that, fortune is favouring them. Boy, did they get lucky last night in their 1-0 victory over Ukraine.

Of course the ball was over the line when John Terry hooked it clear with the co-hosts certain they had equalised.

But, as was the case two years ago when Frank Lampard's World Cup strike went in against Germany, no goal was given.

Once again Fifa's failure to bring in video replays for such crucial and controversial moments has caused the governing body and the sport huge embarrassment.

It remains staggering that Sepp Blatter and his cronies still don't use technology in major tournaments.

Hopefully one day...

And as for those assistant referees... as much use as a chocolate fireguard!

Meantime, England march on, probably thinking what goes around comes around, and that this might just be their time.

Certainly they have a much better chance than Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Croatia, Russia or the Republic of Ireland. Or co-hosts Ukraine and Poland come to that.

They are all finished. Out.

England are very much in the mix. And after beating Ukraine, combined with France's shock defeat to the Swedes, Hodgson's side have a quarter-final showdown with Italy, not European and World champions Spain, an altogether more appetising dish.

One thing's for sure this England team look hungry.

All the talk before the Donetsk encounter was about Wayne Rooney, starved of action due to his two-match ban which, remember, should have been three but for Uefa's leniency

Hodgson was always going to pick him once available and he eventually lived up to all the hype by scoring the only goal, but he wasn't England's main man. Not by a long chalk.

No, that was the other scouser in the side, Steven Gerrard, fast becoming England's captain fantastic.

When Fabio Capello was the boss, he never truly trusted Gerrard as skipper. Hodgson clearly does and the Liverpool midfielder is responding with some of his most effective displays for his country.

Hodgson's Gerrard is not the all action hero forever thrusting forward and scoring stunning goals we are used to seeing at Anfield.

In Euro 2012 he's in a deeper role, protecting the defence and only joining in with the attack for set pieces, or when he feels it is completely necessary.

So far those tactics are working because Gerrard has whipped in sensational crosses leading to opening goals in all of England's Group D matches.

He'll aim to do the same against Italy.

Moments after the break against Ukraine, Gerrard's skill beat a defender and then his wicked cross fell to Rooney, who couldn't miss from a couple of yards out with his head.

There would have been a certain amount of relief for Rooney after that, not just because he hadn't scored an international goal for nine months or in a tournament since 2004, but because he was having a terrible match beforehand.

Rooney was rusty playing his first game in over a month. His touch was dreadful, displaying about as much finesse as a rampaging herd of buffalo, and he had already missed a glorious scoring opportunity.

But then he got lucky and so did England when Marko Devic raced through and put the ball over the line to bring Ukraine level. Or so they thought.

England are alive and kicking and three games away from becoming champions. They couldn't, could they?

Belfast Telegraph