Shaky England triumph thanks to Welbeck’s inventive backheel

Forget the performance and savour a thrilling game and a fabulous result.

And, in particular, remember the part played by Theo Walcott, who scored one goal and made another after coming on as a second-half substitute when England looked to be hurtling to defeat.

Walcott has had his critics down the years. He has no football brain, say some. Not good enough touch, say others.

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Maybe, but he has searing pace. He also has the uncanny knack of making things happen.

And that is why England are still alive in Euro 2012 following this victory against Sweden which puts them top of Group D alongside France.

Will they win the tournament? Do not put your house on that. They still give the ball away too much, they still have periods when they look a rag-tag bunch of ordinary footballers.

Some of their work against Sweden was from the Conference compared to the top-flight fare already delivered by Germany and Spain.

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Yet no one can fault their hunger or desire, nor their ability to scrap when things are at their darkest.

Let us also applaud manager Roy Hodgson.

He spotted Sweden’s weakness, he laid the trap – and it worked like a dream as England went ahead with a header from Andy Carroll, brought in expressly to provide aerial support.

The problem was that Sweden had clearly also done their homework and it was the defensive frailties of England in the air which led to Olof Mellberg’s two goals.

Yes, England showed more ambition than they did in the 1-1 draw against France.

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Not huge amounts of quality, it is true, unless we are talking about the quality of Steven Gerrard’s crossing and the odd bit of work from Danny Welbeck.

But any team with realistic notions of progressing deep into the tournament need to score goals. England certainly managed that.

Let us savour Carroll’s goal. One, because it was a rare moment of true precision in a match which contained large swathes of pinball action in which it was a toss up which was the most ordinary side.

Two, because Carroll in full flight is a force of nature – powerful and balletic when he leaps, virtually impossible to mark.

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The spark, as so often, came from Gerrard, the captain who invariably lifts the spirits and the quality of play from those around him.

The cross he swung over right-footed from the right-hand side was a thing of beauty. Typically Gerrard. Better even than the cross he laid on for Joleon Lescott to score against France

Carroll did the rest, proving that when the correct service is delivered he looks almost worth the £35m fortune Liverpool forked out to Newcastle 18 months ago.

England’s problem, of course, is that they do not treasure the football.

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They give the ball away too easily, too often. If that sounds like a stuck record then in football terms it is.

It goes to the core of England’s inability to make an impression at the major tournaments since they reached the semi-finals of Euro ’96.

It was the reason a match which they should have strangled after Carroll’s opener began to run away with them in the second half.

Okay, Sweden’s first goal from Mellberg had a touch of fortune about it, the former Aston Villa defender stabbing home after England had failed to clear in the penalty area.

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The second was England at their worst. Another cross flung into the England penalty area and Mellberg rose totally unmarked to head past goalkeeper Joe Hart.

There is no excuse for such slack marking.

At that point it looked as if England might be heading for an early flight home. But time to applaud Hodgson again.

Enter Walcott as a substitute for James Milner and three minutes later his right-footed shot from 25 yards delivered the equaliser and then his surging run and cross saw Welbeck backheel the winner with a beguiling piece of instinctive invention.

Let us not get carried away. Sweden are poor, England were not much better. But Wayne Rooney can now return from suspension and things can only get better.

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Walcott, seen left being hugged by captain Gerrard after scoring, said: “We felt from the first game we wanted to pick it up a bit more offensively and to score three goals is the main thing.

“It’s always nice to come off the bench and show what you can do.”

Sweden: Isaksson, Granqvist (Lustig 66), Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson, Larsson, Svensson, Kallstrom, Elm (Wilhelmsson 81), Ibrahimovic, Elmander (Rosenberg 79). Unused substitutes: Wiland, Hansson, Hysen, Antonsson, Wernbloom, Safari, Holmen, Bajrami, Toivonen.

England: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner (Walcott 60), Parker, Gerrard, Young, Carroll, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain 89). Unused substitutes: Green, Butland, Kelly, Henderson, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Downing, Defoe.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).