France reaches quarters despite loss
Wed, 20 Jun 2012 8:54a.m.
England and France failed to impress but still advanced to the European Championship quarterfinals amid yet another goal-line controversy.
England striker Wayne Rooney returned after a two-match ban to score in the 48th minute and secure a 1-0 win over Ukraine, a result which eliminated the Euro 2012 co-hosts.
However, Ukraine was denied an equaliser when the Hungarian match officials ruled Marko Devic's 62nd-minute shot had not crossed the line, despite replays indicating it had.
France progressed as Group D runner-up despite being beaten 2-0 by Sweden, which lost its first two matches. Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with a stunning volley in the 54th and Sebastian Larsson scored the second in stoppage time.
France will next play defending champion Spain in Donetsk, while England will face a revitalized Italy in Kiev. With the group stage over, Portugal will face the Czech Republic on Thursday in Warsaw in the first quarterfinal match. Germany will face Greece in Gdansk.
UEFA charged the German football association for a neo-Nazi banner identified among its fans during a game against Denmark. And UEFA fined the Croatian football association after fans racially abused Italy forward Mario Balotelli last week.
In his first competitive match in more than a month, Rooney looked rusty in the first half in Donetsk when he headed wide from close range.
He was decisive when a right-flank cross by Steven Gerrard, which deflected off two Ukraine players and was fumbled by the goalkeeper, found Rooney at the back post for a simple close-range header.
Still, Rooney's victorious return will likely be knocked off the headlines by a revival of football's ongoing debate over the need for technology to help referees make accurate decisions.
England coach Roy Hodgson said he "was led to believe that it probably was" over the line.
Devic's shot beat goalkeeper Joe Hart and looped toward goal. England defender John Terry chased down the ball and stretched to kick it up and out of the goalmouth.
Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai allowed play to continue after being advised by his assistant standing directly beside the goal that the ball did not cross the line.
"The ref is there to make the decision, he has made the decision. One-nil," Hart said.
The incident put the spotlight on the five-referee system which has been promoted by UEFA President Michel Platini and is being tested at Euro 2012.
On July 5 in Zurich, FIFA's rule-making panel will decide whether to approve the system for wider use.
At the 2010 World Cup, England midfielder Frank Lampard was denied a goal that would have leveled the match against Germany at 2-2. England ended up losing 4-1.
"To be successful you need a bit of luck," Gerrard said. "Two years ago we were unlucky with Frank Lampard and we had to pack our bags."
France reached the quarterfinals despite ending its 23-game unbeaten streak. Needing a draw to be sure of progressing, the French were outplayed for much of the game but advanced anyway because of England's win.
Ibrahimovic completed an impressive tournament, despite his team's earlier defeats, by striking a perfect volley from Larsson's cross.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris then single-handedly kept his team in the game, making point-blank saves to deny Christian Wilhelmsson and Olof Mellberg.
Larsson finally added the second with an emphatic volley from a rebound into an empty net.
Germany fans have now provoked UEFA charges after all three of the team's matches at Euro 2012. The latest charge of "improper conduct" of fans related to the display of "inappropriate banners and symbols," UEFA said.
The case was opened based on reports by official anti-discrimination monitors from FARE, a European fans' network.
Monitors also provided the evidence for UEFA to prove that about 300 Croatian fans made monkey noises at Balotelli, who is black, during a 1-1 draw in Poznan last Thursday.
It was the first formal racism charge prosecuted by UEFA at Euro 2012 after lacking evidence in previous reported incidents.
The fine was less than the UEFA disciplinary panel ordered Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner to pay one day earlier for an ambush marketing stunt. Bendtner revealed a sponsor's name on his underpants during a goal celebration.
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