BRING on Italy.
That’s the message of football fans in Hartlepool after England scraped a 1-0 win to top their European Championship group.
A Wayne Rooney goal in the 48th minute was enough to beat co-hosts Ukraine and put the Three Lions on course for a quarter-final clash with Italy on Sunday night.
But it wasn’t a straight-forward affair as the Eastern Europeans had a host of gilt-edged chances and a goal not given when the ball looked to have crossed the line.
We joined fans in Flix Movie Cafe, in Church Square, to see the game on the big screen.
After a turgid first 45 minutes, Daniel Oram, 20, couldn’t contain himself when Rooney netted just after the restart to secure a win that saw England leapfrog France in the table.
The Network Rail apprentice from Wilton Road, Hartlepool, launched out of his seat to celebrate the vital goal.
Speaking to the Mail after the final whistle, he said: “It was a good game and a good battle, and it was great to see Rooney score.
“I think we can beat Italy and make it to the semis.”
Friends Jonathan Marshall, 22, and Wayne Pringle, 24, were also optimistic after seeing England top the qualifying group.
Jonathan, a trainee aircraft maintenance mechanic based at RAF Cosford, said: “You could feel the tension in the final 20 minutes, it was always going to be a tough game, definitely nerve wracking.
“The Ukraine goal was also a bit sketchy!
“But we can definitely make it to the semis now. Why not?”
Wayne, an apprentice bricklayer from Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, added: “If you get to the quarters, anything can happen.
“I think we’ll beat Italy but there’s no free-flowing football, it’s all set pieces.”
Adam Bouabda, who runs Flix, was frantically running in and out of the kitchen to check the score.
The 31-year-old from Hartlepool’s Throston estate said: “It’s a good result, Ukraine really came at us, but we held them back.
“I think we will beat Italy, but then we probably face Germany, who are the team to beat. There’s a long way to go.
“Hopefully we will get to the final on July 1 and we’ll be nice and busy!”
l It’s your vote: Page 8