* England advance after controversial 1-0 win over Ukraine
* France through despite 2-0 defeat by Sweden
* Germany and Greece play down euro zone link
* Croatia fined 80,000 euros for racist chanting
By Patrick Graham
WARSAW, June 19 England and France took the last
places in a heavyweight final eight at Euro 2012 on Tuesday,
with Ukraine joining co-hosts Poland on the sidelines after a
1-0 loss to the English marred by a controversial disallowed
In a tournament heavy on goals and drama but relatively free
of debatable refereeing decisions, the row over Marco Devic's
disallowed effort after an hour, which television replays
suggested may have crossed the line, left a bitter taste.
But it would not have made any difference to Ukraine who
needed to win to advance and struggled to breach a resolute
English defence in Donetsk.
"To be successful in these tournaments, with the quality of
teams you have, you need a bit of luck along the way," England
captain Steven Gerrard said. "If you keep fighting and stick at
it you earn that bit of luck."
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin was unhappy with the decision.
"What should I say? There were five referees on the pitch
and the ball was 75 centimetres behind the goalline," he said.
"I do not want to talk about referees. But I would not like
to put everything on referees. You have seen it, so you may
write all you want."
England's win, courtesy of a second-half Wayne Rooney
header, meant a below-par France also qualified as Group D
runners-up despite losing 2-0 to Sweden who had already been
eliminated, in Kiev.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the opening goal for the Swedes
with a spectacular scissor-kick volley after 54 minutes and
Sebastian Larsson added the second shortly before the final
France will play world champions Spain on Saturday and
England take on Italy on Sunday. The Czech Republic and Portugal
meet in the first quarter-final on Thursday and Germany face
Greece on Friday.
The tournament, being hosted by Poland and Ukraine in
eastern Europe for the first time, has yet to feature a goalless
draw and all four groups went down to the wire with four teams
who won their first games going out, a championship record.
But the finals have also been marked from the start by
debates over racism, bigotry and a diplomatic boycott of Ukraine
over the jailing of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko that
caused British leaders to stay away from Tuesday's game.
Players and coaches also sought to play down the political
meaning of the Greece v Germany quarter-final which has turned
minds at the tournament to Europe's deepening economic crisis.
"It's a bad thing for you to start to make stories and
compare football and sports with politics," Greek striker
Giorgos Samaras told a news conference, laying into
international media for spinning the game as a clash between the
euro zone's problem child and its rich northern paymaster.
"It's just a game. We're going to play and enjoy it because
we love it, nothing else."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a deeply unpopular figure
in Greece for the tough austerity principles she has imposed in
return for a 130 billion euro ($164.79 billion) bailout deal
that a new government is expected to seek to renegotiate.
Germany for its part says extra taxation and a far smaller
public sector is vital if Greece is to learn to live within its
means and not require more international handouts in future.
"Angela Merkel and us, we have a good relationship and an
agreement that she does not advise me on the lineups and I do
not advise her on political statements," Germany coach Joachim
Loew told reporters.
"It is just a normal quarter-final game against Greece and
Croatia became the latest country to be fined by European
soccer's governing body UEFA for its fans racist taunting of
Italy striker Mario Balotelli in last week's 1-1 draw.
The Croats, whose fans have also been involved in violence
outside stadiums at the tournament, were fined 80,000 euros
($101,400) the day after being dumped out of the tournament by
Spain following a 1-0 defeat in Gdansk.
"It is certainly a drastic fine for us. Unfortunately, the
behaviour of a tiny group of people immensely tarnishes our
reputation and inflicts a huge financial damage," Zorislav
Srebric, secretary-general of the Croatian Soccer Federation
(HNS), told Reuters.