DONETSK (AFP) – Wayne Rooney believes England are ready to end their quarter-final curse after scoring the goal which sent his side into a Euro 2012 showdown with Italy.
Rooney’s 48th-minute header helped England secure a 1-0 victory over Ukraine to leave Roy Hodgson’s team in buoyant mood ahead of Sunday’s last eight meeting with Italy at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium.
The Manchester United striker, who endured an otherwise patchy return from suspension on Tuesday, admitted he was relieved to have scored his first goal in a major tournament for eight years.
Rooney also believes England have the ability to reach the last four of a major tournament for the first time in 16 years following three quarter-final exits and a departure in the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
“I hope there is the belief we can go past the quarter-finals this time,” Rooney said. “It will be a difficult game against Italy and it will be quite evenly matched in terms of the way we play.
“It can go either way but we’re looking forward to it. We’re feeling confident and we’ve got players in the team who can score goals.
“I haven’t scored at a major tournament for a while so it was nice to get a goal which won us the game,” Rooney said.
“We know our qualities and what we’re capable of. We’ve worked hard, done a lot of tactical play in training.
“We’re difficult to beat and I don’t think any team will fancy playing us.”
England’s chaotic pre-tournament preparations, which saw John Terry stripped of the captaincy and Fabio Capello resign before the 11th-hour appointment of Hodgson had left expectations at an all-time low.
Hodgson said he was delighted to have confounded the gloomiest assessments of his team’s chances as his team finished top of Group D ahead of France — an achievement few had thought possible before the finals.
“After Fabio Capello resigned people thought the team wouldn’t have enough time with a new coach to prepare,” Hodgson said. “Luckily we’ve proved that to be wrong. I’m pleased about that.
“Now we are getting good vibrations from those back home. It’s not really a question of expectations. We want to keep going and try and enjoy this tournament for as long as we can.”
The fact that England had enjoyed a large slice of luck against Ukraine — with Marko Devic having what would have been an equalising goal ruled out in the second half after it clearly crossed the line — was also cause for comfort.
Hodgson pointed to England’s wretched fortune at the 2010 World Cup, when Frank Lampard had an effort disallowed in similar circumstances against Germany, as well as Sol Campbell’s header which crossed the line during the quarter-final defeat to Portugal in Euro 2004.
“We don’t have goal-line technology and, even with slow motion, people can’t be 100% certain,” Hodgson said of Devic’s goal.
“If it was over the line then that was a slice of luck. We’ve suffered pretty much bad luck in those areas, against Portugal and Germany, so if it was good luck today then we got it.”
Captain Steven Gerrard, who has emerged as England’s most influential performer with three assists in three games, also had only measured sympathy for Ukraine .
“To be successful in these tournaments, because of the standard of teams involved, you need that bit of luck going with you,” he said.
“Two years ago we didn’t get that luck with Frank Lampard’s goal, a big turning point in that World Cup game against Germany, and we ended up packing our bags and going home.
“Against Ukraine, the luck turned. But it just shows that, if you keep working hard and keep fighting, you earn that luck. We deserved it.”
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