Walcott Rescues England

Substitute Theo Walcott proved to be England’s catalyst in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Sweden last night. And for me, I highly profitable 2.52 backing.

After Andy Carroll headed home Steven Gerrard’s perfect cross from deep, midway through the first half I thought 3 points were in the bag and England would cruise to victory. How arrogant of me. How foolish to think England would make it easy.

Sweden had their own fortunes in an early second half equaliser when Joe Hart parried Olof Mellberg’s effort onto Glen Johnson to find the back of the net off the inside of the post. There was no luck in their second goal, just bad defending as the former Aston Villa player connected with Sebastian Larsson’s free kick, unmarked to give Sweden a surprise 2-1 lead.

Straight after the goal, Hodgson introduced Theo Walcott for the ineffectual James Milner. It took less than 5 minutes for the Arsenal forward to make an impact. John Terry had a header well saved from Andreas Isaksson (the goalkeeper dived left, the header wasn’t straight at him) and England had a corner. Walcott’s goal was bizarre. A 25-yard effort down the middle. The tallest player in the tournament, Isaksson seemingly unsighted as he stumbled backwards with no attempt to save England’s equaliser.

15 minutes later, a burst into the box from Walcott, sprinting past two defenders allowed the substitute to cut the ball back, assisting Danny Welbeck for a superb finish. Notably, the Manchester United striker made a great burst to get in front of Olof Mellberg to connect with Theo’s cross.

I was really surprised to get 2.52 on England pre-game, having tipped them at 2.10. Of course, I was a little concerned at 1-2 with 30 minutes to play, and away from internet access as I watched the game amongst a large contingency of England supporters, I was unable to lay Sweden when ahead, or back England when behind. Would have been an even bigger winner.  This result also meant Sweden were guaranteed to finish bottom in the group, something else I backed during the day.

Earlier in the day, a thunder-delayed game between France and Sweden eventually restarted an hour later than scheduled. After a poor first half, France got it together in the second. Yohan Cabaye opened the scoring and Jeremy Menez put the game beyond reach for the hosts, in front of a quiet, and presumably drenched crowd.

Menez looked a real threat down the right wing, starting instead of Florent Malouda. He had earlier a missed a couple of other chances and mistimed a run in the first half that otherwise would have given him a one-on-one opportunity.

Karim Benzema has yet to flourish in this tournament, having tipped him to contend for the Golden Boot. The Real Madrid striker has resorted to a number of long range efforts.

Tied on 4 points, group D will come down to goal difference if France and England win their last two games, as expected. France already have a 1-goal advantage and are playing 1 of the 2 teams that have already been eliminated, in Sweden. England have a more difficult task, playing against the home nation and one needing a win to progress. France to win the group and England finish second is only 2.2 on Betfair now, compared to the 5.1 odds I got before the second group games (will post screenshot if it comes in).

Laying Ukraine at 3.05 to win group D before the second group games was the equivalent of printing money. OK, it hasn’t come in just yet, but I’m confident to say the least.