England vs. Ukraine: Players Who Must Step Up for Three Lions in Group D Finale

Sam R. QuinnSenior Analyst IIIJune 19, 2012

KRAKOW, POLAND - JUNE 13:  Wayne Rooney during an England training session during UEFA Euro 2012 on June 13, 2012 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

England finds themselves in fairly good shape heading into its Group D finale against Ukraine, but a spot in the quarterfinals isn't set in stone.

If the Three Lions win, they are in.

If they play to a draw, they are in.

But if Roy Hodgson's side suffers a defeat, they will need France to lose to Sweden by a sufficient mark to finish even on goal differential and goals scored to advance to the knockout stage. No team ever wants to rely on another team's play to advance.

The English side will surely want to move on to the quarterfinals on their own accord. Here are three players that must step up if that is to happen.


Wayne Rooney

After missing the first two games of the 2012 European Championship due to suspension, Rooney is set to return against Ukraine at a critical juncture for the English. 

He's been around for many of England's failures in major tournaments and will do his best to make sure his side avoids another disappointment.

Aside from his mindset, Rooney will need to spearhead the English attack against the Ukrainians, something that shouldn't be that hard because the Three Lions were relatively successful in that department in his absence.

Rooney is brilliant in the possession aspect of the game. He'll need to use his dribbling ability to navigate his way in the attacking third and slip some precise passes to his streaking teammates. Even if he's a bit rusty, he'll be able to take some attention off his teammates at the very least.


Ashley Young

If Young doesn't want to lose his spot in the starting XI spot in the future, he needs to show some kind of effectiveness on the pitch against Ukraine.

Young didn't impress against France in his side's opener in what seems like months ago. He was handed a yellow card in that contest and was largely invisible for most of the match.

Against Sweden, he found the side of the net rather than the back. That almost proved to be a fatal flaw for England. They were but a Danny Welback back heel flip away from playing to a draw against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and company.

For all the praise Young has received in the past, he hasn't lived up to expectations in this tournament. If Hodgson can get more out of Young, England fans would feel much better about their team's chances moving forward.


Danny Welbeck

Welbeck notched the winner for England against Sweden in the 78th minute via a brilliant back-heel deflection.

He's likely to play up front, ahead of Young, Rooney and Theo Walcott. You can count on most of the attention being on Rooney in this one, as the star striker will be looking for redemption upon his return. That means Welbeck will have plenty of chances to find some open space in the attacking third of the field.

He'll also make a decent contribution on the defensive end. With all eyes on Rooney, Welbeck will have to replicate the performance he put on against Sweden in terms of finishing at the net.

If Welbeck does anything like his back-heeled winner, the English will be on to the quarterfinals easily.