On a night when a dramatic storm halted the earlier match between France and Ukraine in Donetsk, the thunder and lightning were confined to the pitch in Kiev's Olympic Stadium as England fought Sweden for supremacy in a group match that would go a long way towards determining the fate of both sides in Euro 2012, taking the lead but then needing to come from behind to fight for the victory in an absolute thriller of a contest.
It was a night on which the most expensive English footballer of all time looked likely to become his country's hero and villain. Andy Carroll, the 23-year-old centre forward whose rough-hewn talent was acquired by Liverpool for a jaw-dropping £35m last year, scored a quite wonderful goal to give England the lead in their second match of the Euro 2012 finals, but then committed the silly foul that gave Sweden the chance to equalise.
Reinvigorated, the Scandinavians went on to score a second goal that might have made it all but impossible for England to progress beyond the group stage of Euro 2012. But then Roy Hodgson, the England manager, sent on Theo Walcott, the Arsenal winger, whose first touch was to smack the ball past the Swedish goalkeeper from a range of 25 metres. England's hopes were alive again. With 12 minutes left Walcott's cross was met by Danny Welbeck with a marvellous back-heeled shot that restored England's lead.
Carroll had opened the scoring midway through the first half. And still there is Wayne Rooney to come, Hodgson must have been telling himself after a goal that came as a direct result of the manager's decision to change the team's tactics against the representatives of the country where he made his reputation.
The 64-year-old Hodgson, whose career has taken him to jobs in nine countries, is particularly well regarded in Sweden, where his successful use of English-style tactics revolutionised the game. , in his second competitive match with England, he decided to do to his new team what he had once done to the Swedes, and make them more English.
To do that he made one change from the team who drew their opening match with France on Saturday, bringing in Carroll, who has barely begun to repay Liverpool's investment but who stands 6ft 3in and can, on his day, reduce even stout defenders to matchwood.
Hodgson's tactical plan was clear, and it was one that took England back to the days before the World Cup of 1966, when wingers provided crosses that big men would meet with thundering headers. In the 23rd minute , it paid off. Steven Gerrard, Hodgson's captain, drilled a diagonal ball from the right-hand touchline, Carroll rose between two earthbound defenders, and with an emphatic flick of his forehead the ball was flashing into the net past the helpless dive of Andreas Isaaksson, Sweden's goalkeeper.
Grumblings about Hodgson's retro tactics were temporarily silenced by a goal that, in its old-fashioned majesty, recalled the days of such imperious England centre-forwards as Tommy Lawton, Nat Lofthouse and Alan Shearer. The manager had reminded sceptics that there are more ways to win football matches in the 21st century than by adopting the feather-footed approach associated with Spain, the current world champions.
This match, however, was made for such an approach. The English and the Swedes are footballing brothers under the skin, not least since seven of Sweden's team play or have played in the Premier League for such clubs as Manchester City, Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers. Hodgson, who won the Swedish league with Malmo five years in a row, has been begged on many occasions to return to Stockholm to manage the national team. Sven-Goran Eriksson, one of his Swedish disciples, became the first foreigner to manage England.
It should have been no surprise, then, that this match resembled a Premier League match, and a rather incoherent one at that, full of hectic to-and-fro and an abundance of the sort of technical errors that would leave your average Spanish footballer gasping in disbelief.
The knock-on effect of the sudden and shockingly intense thunderstorm that interrupted the preceding Group D match between France and Ukraine was a 15-minute delay to England's match, requested by the broadcasters. The match in Donetsk, which resumed after an hour, resulted in a comfortable 2-0 win for France, meaning that England needed a good result against Sweden in order to face Ukraine in Donetsk on Tuesday, in their final group match, with a hope of continuing in the competition.
More than 18,000 Swedish fans outnumbered their English counterparts by at least five to one , filling the stadium with the national colours of yellow and blue, which, since they also happen to be the national colours of Ukraine, were echoed by the costumes of the dancers in the pre-match ceremony and in the shirts of those local fans who had come along as neutrals, wearing their replica national jerseys. This was a rare and possibly even unique experience for fans from Stoke, Portsmouth, York, and Chesterfield, accustomed to taking possession of away grounds as they hang their flags of St George from the balconies and sing about the three lions on their chest. This time they found themselves outdisplayed and outsung by the visitors from Malmo, Halmstad, Vaxjo and Karlstad. Long before the end, however, they had recovered their voice.