KIEV (Reuters) - Coach Roy Hodgson celebrated the emergence of a new generation of players after his young forwards led England to a 3-2 victory over Sweden in Euro 2012 Group D on Friday.
Andy Carroll, 23, opened the scoring with a powerful header and second-half substitute Theo Walcott, also 23, scored the equalizer before making the pass for 21-year-old Danny Welbeck to score with what Hodgson described as a pirouette in front of goal.
“All teams need to know there is something coming along that is going to replace that (older) generation in time and put players who have been there a long time under pressure,” Hodgson told reporters, noting that Sweden’s team is ageing.
“There comes a time when you need some players knocking on the door making life difficult for the players that are still doing a good job for you.”
Hodgson did not forget the contributions made in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev by older players such as defenders John Terry and Joleon Lescott, and captain Steven Gerrard.
But he saved his most fulsome praise for the young guns who pulled England back into the match after they had gone 2-1 down in the second half.
“I was really pleased with the performances of the two front players and of course Theo’s contribution was enormous today,” he said. “To come on as sub and score such a good goal and set up the winner, he’s got to be very pleased with his contribution.”
Walcott’s shot from just outside the penalty area brought England back into the match and it was his cross after a pacy run that gave Welbeck the chance to steer the ball home from close range with his back to the goal.
“I thought he did very well to find Danny at the near post and Danny timed his run very well to the near post,” he said.
“It was a very clever finish with a type of pirouette which made it very difficult for the goalkeeper who I guess was expecting him to turn it somewhere towards the near post. But then he did this pirouette and beat him at the far post, so it was a goal well worthy, in my opinion, of winning the game.”
Carroll had justified his selection ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, by opening the scoring in the 23rd minute.
But it remains unclear which of the young players will start the decisive Group D match against Ukraine on Tuesday - with England needing only a draw - because Wayne Rooney will be back after suspension.
“Wayne Rooney is a very special player and it would be very difficult for me to leave him out of the team,” Hodgson said, adding that he hoped that having a player of Rooney’s class in the team would make a big difference.
“If you are a member of the team and someone like Wayne Rooney is sitting out suspension you probably expect him to get back in the team.”
Editing by Ed Osmond