Euro 2012 Group D preview
Published: 11.06.12 / Written by: David Gold
This is another very tightly matched group.
France and England are strongest on paper, but a Sweden team with the talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ukraine as hosts will be difficult opponents.
Ukraine come into the tournament without the best preparation. Oleg Blokhin was brought back to help Ukraine stabilise after a poor spell, and he has recently guided them through an unbeaten run. The winger Yarmolenko is a threat and one of their most promising players but they will rely most of all on two experienced names. Anatoliy Tymoschuk is the key man, the captain in Andriy Shevchenko's absence and the driving force in midfield. A limited side will rely on being defensively sound and fighting hard, and he is key to that.
Going forward Shevchenko is still the man they look to for inspiration. He will need to be at his best to help Ukraine make it past the group stage this summer.
And they could just do so if England struggle to adapt to life under Roy Hodgson. Fabio Capello resigned in February to stun England and with it, England went into disarray. They have only just appointed Hodgson, making their preparations the most haphazard of all the teams making their way to the Euros.
With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two games, against France and Sweden, England will struggle. And then they must probably beat Ukraine at home in the last game. If the hosts are still in with a chance of progress that will be a tough ask. England have the defensive structure and players to make themselves hard to beat and that is likely to be the way they approach things. Building slowly from the back, they will hope that Andy Carroll's size will help create space for the smaller, quicker, Theo Walcott and Ashley Young to run riot.
Then there is Sweden. They have a great record against England, whom they have never lost to in competitive football. Theirs though is a more attacking team than usual under Erik Hamren. Not the defensively minded team they once were, Sweden have not called up John Guidetti and so will look to Ibrahimovic for goals. The young and talented Ola Toivonen and Marcus Rosenberg should prove a handful for opponents, and with the talents of the creative Kim Kallstrom and Seb Larsson, Sweden will make life difficult for their rivals.
Then there is France. No team has been more embarrassed than they were at the last World Cup. England and Italy could at least console themselves with not being French after their team went on strike during a disastrous campaign. But France have a team to match any in Europe on their day. Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud are both superb forwards. They are backed up by Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa, Franck Ribery, Mathieu Valbuena, Jeremy Menez, Yoann Gourcuff, Marvin Martin and Yohan Cabaye.
This is a superb collection of attacking stars, and their defence is not bad either. Yann M'Vila is one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, whilst at the back they have Laurent Koscielny, Philippe Mexes, Adil Rami and Hugo Lloris. It is a team who are both going to be tough to break down and to stop scoring. But they have also had problems in the build up with Laurent Blanc's position as manager in doubt due to a dispute with the French Football Federation. Whether he will still be there after the Euros is in serious doubt. They should be good enough to make it out of this group though.
1 - France
2 - England
3 - Sweden
4 - Ukraine