'Italians next and they're very good defensively – we'll give them a shot': England players reaction after Ukraine win
Roy Hodgson was delighted last night as England defeated Ukraine 1-0, won Group D and secured a quarter-final against Italy on Sunday rather than Spain on Saturday.
"It gives us an extra day's rest which we're badly in need of," said Hodgson after Wayne Rooney's tap-in settled a tight game in Donetsk. "It's been a really hard game for us tonight, an away game with a capital 'A'. With 60,000 people in the stadium and only 4,000 brave Englishmen. It was a really good defensive and disciplined performance."
England will play Italy in the quarter-finals on Sunday evening at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Should they win they will meet the winner of Friday's quarter-final between Germany and Greece.
Steven Gerrard set up Rooney's goal early in the second half with yet another excellent right-wing cross, his third assist of the tournament. He said that England were finding form at the right time. "We knew when we came into this group, a difficult group, the idea was to try and win it," the England captain said afterwards. "No one believed in us at the start but we're gaining momentum at the right time. I don't think tonight's performance was fantastic but we got the job done, we stuck together, we worked hard and we won it."
Rooney was pleased to score his first tournament goal since Euro 2004. "I am delighted with the win, and to score," he said afterwards. "I haven't scored in a major tournament for a while so it was nice to do that. I thought the whole team tonight was fantastic, we defended very well and stuck in there at times, against a difficult crowd as well. We deserved the win."
With France losing 2-0 to Sweden, England were clear winners of Group D, leaving France to face Group C victors Spain. While some might be pleased to avoid the world and European champions, Gerrard said that he was also worried about playing Italy.
"If we do well in the next game we might play Spain again," Gerrard said. "Spain are a fantastic team and so are Italy, we'll take each game as it comes. The Italians are next and they're very good defensively so we have to give them a shot."
England may need more good fortune on Sunday. Last night Ukraine should have equalised when Artem Milevskiy's shot crossed the line before it was cleared by John Terry. "You need a bit of luck along the way. You don't do well in these competitions without a bit of luck, it doesn't matter how good you are," said Gerrard. "Let's hope we get a bit more."
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