Euro 2012 Group D Preview

Euro 2012 Group D Preview

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 9, 2012
  • Andriy Shevchenko, England, Euro 2012, France, Frank Ribery, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill, Johan Elmander, Karim Benzema, Oleh Blokhin, Olof Mellberg, Sweden, Ukraine

Can England escape from this group? (Getty Images)

By Geoff Reid

Group D
Somehow for some reason England is ranked 6th in the world, which it’s known that FIFA’s ranking system is flawed and nobody takes very seriously, but you wouldn’t think they were with the tone new manager Roy Hodgson has been using, and other leading pundits and coaches. For the first time in recent memory, it seems the expectations of this team going into a major tournament isn’t to win it from the English public just talking to family and friends. Certainly the resignation of Italian Fabio Capello didn’t help matters as he’s much more of a positive thinker then Hodgson, but the mess that the former West Brom manager was left with is certainly not his fault, and is unlucky having to deal with it. The topic in hand is the Rio Ferdinand affair and not being called in due to “footballing reasons.” The problem is, everybody and their own mother knows that’s not the case. It all comes back to the incident that Chelsea captain John Terry and Rio’s brother Anton when the blues played west London rivals QPR earlier in the Premier League season. Terry essentially got the England captaincy stripped from him by the FA, which led to Capello’s resignation, and that was probably smart looking at it from his angle. Also take into consideration Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two games, and injuries to key personnel such as Gary Cahill and Gareth Barry it’s going to be an almighty task for Hodgson and the three Lions. So far it looks as if Hodgson is sticking to a 4-4-1-1 from recent friendlies may suggest. Expect the long ball constantly as it’s been Hodgson’s style for as long as he’s been managing which a lot will say is outdated. Liverpool striker Andy Carroll can play that target man up front, and England will certainly be hard to beat, but will that be enough?

Back two years ago after France dropped out of the World Cup in the manner that they did, you wouldn’t think today they’d be going into the European Championships currently on a 20 game unbeaten run, but that’s exactly what Laurent Blanc has done with this squad since taking over national team boss. However, the former national team defender is playing down the chances of his team and reminding the media that France haven’t won a game in a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. Some of that was seeing the old golden generation retiring and passing the torch over to the new generation of players. Of course former manager Raymond Domenech has never a good leader or motivator of the group and to reply on legend Zinedine Zidane to come out of international retirement and helped the squad reach the final in 2006. So now it looks like the team has finally moved on, and is going places again. One of the issues facing this team is who will stand out as the main leaders? Blanc had different captains for 18 months leading up to this tournament, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been chosen to wear the armband. It seems as if Blanc is sticking with a 4-2-3-1 for his team with a good front trio of Frank Ribery, Karim Benzema, and Samir Nasri who are as good as the come.

Honestly, nobody knows what to make of this Swedish team currently. It seems the same problems continuously happen to the Scandinavians every time they’re playing in a big tournament: being caught between generations. They didn’t qualify for the last World Cup, which is very usual, so a change of manager took place. Out went Lars Lagerback and in came Erik Hamren who’s a more attacking manager which should suite AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The hot tempered frontman has the chance again to prove he is amongst the world’s elite in attacking talent. The issue with this team is once again not being able to pass over the torch with not enough young talent coming through the pipeline. At 34, center back Olof Mellberg is slower then he was a few years ago, but still has that same attitude which won him lots of admirers in the game. For a lot of these players it will be the last chance to shine on the big stage. Hamren will either go with a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 depending on if he wants Johan Elmander to partner Ibrahimovic up front in the 4-2-3-1 or stick to the 4-3-3 to cover the midfield and leave Ibrahimovic up top by himself.

To say the co-host nation has been through a lot for preparations the last two years is a massive understatement. After changing managers three different times, the Ukraine have finally stuck with Oleh Blokhin who was a former player of Dinamo Kiev. At any other tournament, the Ukraine would be written off, but since they are a host and typically host nations have amazing fan support, they’ll have a decent chance of getting to the quarter finals in what is a very weak group on paper. The French team is going through transition, the England squad is not as strong as what it has been the last few years, and the Swedish team has also been stronger in years past. One big storyline is that 35 year old striker Andriy Shevchenko is playing in his first European Championships. The former AC Milan and Chelsea striker has been on the downhill slope the last six years or so in his career, but this tournament is why he still hasn’t hung up his boots, so it will be interesting to see how much he plays and if he’ll roll back the years. Blokhin has tinkered with the lineup an awful lot, having different variations of the 4-5-1, but now looks set on a straight 4-4-2 which has gotten the squad much more positive results over recent friendlies.

June 11th: France 2-1 England
June 11th: Ukraine 1-1 Sweden
June 15th: Ukraine 1-3 France
June 15th: Sweden 1-2 England
June 19th: England 3-2 Ukraine
June 19th: Sweden 1-1 France

1. France 7pts
2. England 6pts
3. Sweden 2pts
4. Ukraine 1pt