Danny Welbeck produced the most unusual and imaginative goal of Euro 2012 to hand England a desperately needed victory over Sweden on Friday and provide the highest point in a career that itself is a triumph against long odds.
Welbeck completed a dramatic comeback for England with the final goal in a 3-2 win in Kiev and leave his country needing just a draw against co-host Ukraine in its final match in Group D to guarantee a place in the quarterfinals.
The 21 year-old Manchester United striker had his back to the goal when Theo Walcott fired in a low cross from the right after 78 minutes, but he was able to flick the ball with the back of his right heel, sending it past Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and into the net.
It was Welbeck's second goal for his country, and some fans had expressed doubts as to his suitability for a starting place in the absence of suspended first-choice forward Wayne Rooney. However, Welbeck is no stranger to overcoming adversity, having battled an unusual and debilitating condition as a child as well as being told he had no chance of becoming a professional.
Welbeck was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease in his formative years, leaving him with excruciating pain and swelling in his knees. Doctors warned he should consider quitting soccer, claiming that continuing to train and play several times a week could cause ongoing pain and growth complications.
[Related: Best photos of Euro 2012]
The youngster refused to give up on his dream of becoming a star, though, and regularly told his parents and coaches that the pain he felt was less serious than it really was. Finally, toward his late teenage years, the problem disappeared. It has never returned.
That was not the only hurdle he had to overcome. This might make uncomfortable reading for some Manchester City supporters, but United's hated rival missed out on the opportunity to snap up Welbeck long before he eventually became a star.
Welbeck was part of City's youth training program as a youngster but was not considered to have the potential to become a professional and was told not to return for future training sessions.
"I was trialing with City at the age of 8 but just before Christmas they told [my] dad I wasn't good enough," Welbeck said. "My dad didn't want to tell me because it was Christmas, so I was oblivious to the situation for a while."
A few months later, Welbeck was spotted by a United scout, and the rest is history.
Welbeck began Friday's game alongside Andy Carroll, and it was the big Liverpool striker who put England ahead midway through the first half from Steven Gerrard's excellent cross.
[Martin Rogers: Andriy Shevchenko's Euro 2012 form may tempt MLS club into a mistake]
At that point, England looked poised to stamp its authority on the game but inexplicably lost concentration early in the second half and allowed Sweden to first equalize, then claim an unexpected lead. Defender Olof Mellberg was responsible on both occasions, seeing his effort deflected into the net off Glen Johnson after 49 minutes, then heading his team into the lead after an hour.
Facing disaster, England coach Roy Hodgson introduced Walcott as a replacement for James Milner and within a few minutes the Arsenal winger had pulled the side level with a powerful drive from the edge of the penalty area.
He also had a hand in Welbeck's winner, with a strong run and testing cross, and suddenly England was in position to progress to the last eight. A win or draw against Ukraine on Tuesday will be enough to stave off the elimination many doomsayers predicted before the tournament.
However, France remains the favorite to win Group D, having beaten Ukraine 2-0 in a clash that was delayed for an hour by torrential rain and a waterlogged pitch.
Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
• Elite Athlete Workouts video: Track star Allyson Felix knows big challenges await in London
• Dan Wetzel: Jerry Sandusky prosecutors leave jury to mull mountain of strong evidence
• Former MVP Justin Morneau is tortured by failure against lefties