Two goals from Wayne Rooney helped England to a 3-0 win over Switzerland. The result ensures that England are in with a chance of reaching the knock out stages, but for Jakob Kuhn’s Switzerland side, the tournament is effectively over.
One could hardly believe that this was a vital qualifier for both teams, so pedestrian was the pace of the game. Admittedly the heat in Coimbra was a factor but the slow tempo of both teams did not make for much of a spectacle for the spectators.
The early pressure came from Switzerland who forced a succession of corners and free-kicks in the opening few minutes. From one such effort, Hakan Yakin, caused a scare in the English defence when his curling free-kick was headed inches over the bar by Steven Gerrard.
In response England tried to develop a passing game but they lacked the penetration to put the Swiss under any pressure and in scorching temperatures, the game was played at walking pace.
The breakthrough came on 23 minutes from England’s first decent move of the half. Gerrard broke from the hallfway line and found Beckham who located Owen with a precise diagonal pass. Faced with a defender, Owen chipped towards goal where Rooney headed in from close range and in so doing, he became the youngest player to ever score at the finals of the European Championships.
The goal seemed to settle England and thy came close to adding a second on 34 minutes when Ashley Cole flashed a ball across the face of the Swiss penalty area but just beyond the outstretched foot of Michael Owen.
Thereafter, the game entered a lull as the heat seemed to take its toll on both sets of players.
Switzerland had a good opportunity to level the scores on the stroke of half-time but Hakan Yakin’s well-struck free-kick went just the wrong side of the post much to the relief of England keeper David James.
After the break Switzerland enjoyed some brief pressure but without a cutting edge up front, they were restricted to speculative efforts from outside the box.
England meanwhile, were producing a curiously lacklustre performance, devoid of energy and ideas, prompting the suspicion that their defeat by France, had taken a severe toll on the players.
However, they enjoyed a fortunate break on the hour when Bernt Haas picked up his second bookable offence for a lunge on Col. Trailing by a goal and reduced to ten men, their cause looked hopeless.
Even with a numerical advantage, England continued to labour and although there was more space available to their much-vaunted midfield, they seemed incapable of exploiting the gaps left by the tiring Swiss.
It took England 15 minutes to create a clear-cut opening but when they did it proved decisive. Substitute Darius Vassell chasing down a long hopeful punt from substitute Owen Hargreaves, did well to find Wayne Rooney. The Everton youngster strolled into the penalty area, took aim and let fire with a powerful shot which rebounded off the post and back into the net off the unfortunate Stiel.
A 2-0 the game was up. Switzerland were physically and mentally drained and it came as no surprise when England added a third. The move was one of the few occasions in the whole when Eriksson’s team managed to move the ball swiftly and with purpose. Beckham found Neville overlapping and his cross to the far post was turned in by Gerrard.
The scoreline flattered England, and on this evidence they look some way short of being regarded as serious challengers. However, in Rooney, they possess a player of genuine promise and if they progress it will be fascinating to see how he copes with the responsibility of being England’s potential match-winner.
England 3-0 Switzerland
– England -Wayne Rooney 23, 75, Steven Gerrard 82
Red card: Bernt Haas (Switzerland) 60
England:1-David James; 2-Gary Neville, 5-John Terry, 6-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-David Beckham (captain), 11-Frank Lampard, 4-Steven Gerrard, 8-Paul Scholes (18-Owen Hargreaves 70); 9-Wayne Rooney (20-Kieron Dyer 83), 10-Michael Owen (23-Darius Vassell 72)
Switzerland:1-Joerg Stiel; 2-Bernt Haas, 20-Patrick Mueller, 5-Murat Yakin, 17-Christoph Spycher; 8-Raphael Wicky, 16-Fabio Celestini (7-Ricardo Cabanas 54), 18-Benjamin Huggel; 10-Hakan Yakin (22-Johann Vonlanthen 84); 11-Stephane Chapuisat (15-Daniel Gygax 46), 9-Alexander Frei.
Referee: Valentin Ivanov (Russia)