The fiery forward headed home the game-winner to lead England past Ukraine 1-0. In the other Group D match, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s spectacular volley lifted Sweden over France, 2-0, to give the English the top spot in the group.
England will face Italy in a quarterfinal on Sunday. France, which finished second in the group, will take on Group C winner and defending champion Spain on Saturday. (See the full quarterfinal schedule below.)
Rooney found himself alone at the back post as Steven Gerrard’s low cross bounced through the box, and the 26-year-old striker nodded it into the empty net. The assist was Gerrard’s third on England’s five goals in the tournament.
The co-hosts appeared to tie the score in the 62nd minute when Marko Devic chipped a ball over charging English goalie Joe Hart. John Terry sprinted back to the goal line to flick the ball out of the goal, and the linesman did not award the goal. The goal line official was about five yards from the near post and his view was unobstructed on the play. Replays showed that the ball full crossed the goal line, sparking another round of goal-line technology talks for a sport that has refused to implement it to this point. Devic also appeared to be offside on the play.
Ukraine continued to push for an equalizer, subbing Andriy Shevchenko on in the 70th minute despite a nagging injury, but the co-hosts never found got on the board. They needed to win the match to advance.
In Kiev, the Swedish bore no resemblance to a team that was already mathematically eliminated. Ibrahimovic went airborne to whip a vicious right-footed volley into the left corner for an effort that will challenge Mario Balotelli and Danny Welbeck for goal of the tournament.
Sebastian Larsson doubled the lead in the 90th minute when he cleaned up a Samuel Holmen volley that clanged off the cross-bar.
The loss snapped a streak of 23 matches without a loss under coach Laurent Blanc dating back to a 2-1 defeat against Norway on Aug. 11, 2011. Blanc benched all his starters in that match, his first as head coach, in response to the team’s flameout at the 2010 World Cup.
Neither the English nor the French looked particularly inspiring, perhaps in part because both were set to advance barring a Ukraine victory.
Here’s a look at the full quarterfinal schedule:
Thursday, June 21: Czech Republic vs. Portugal, 2:45 p.m.
Friday, June 22: Germany vs. Greece, 2:45
Saturday, June 23: Spain vs. France, 2:45
Sunday, June 24: Italy vs. England, 2:45