By Mike O’Brien
England’s group enter the second round of games with England facing another tough test in the form of Sweden. Meanwhile top of the group and co- hosts Ukraine will still be revelling in their glory after coming from behind to beat Sweden in game one but face a much sterner test in the form of France in today’s early kick off.
Ukraine V France
Ukraine played in possibly the most boring half of football we’ve seen at the tournament so far against Sweden but both teams came alive in the second half. National hero and star striker Andriy Shevchenko grabbed both goals as they came from 1-0 down to gain all three points. Now sat top of Group D they will face surely their biggest test in the form of France. The Sweden game was not overly flattering for Ukraine, yes they won but their football was mediocre at best, they capitalised on some poor Swedish play and did well to find the two goals they needed but I feel that France are a lot stronger than Sweden so the Ukrainian players will have to up their game if they intend to reach the six point target.
France lay third in Group D after going 1-1 with England. The game wasn’t one of the standout matches of Euro 2012 so far but was a very intriguing watch. Firstly, France seemed frustrated by the highly defensive tactics employed by England who still managed to take the lead through Joleon Lescott and carve out a chance that frankly James Milner should have buried. France’s goal however was a great shot by Samir Nasri past his Manchester City team mate Joe Hart. On the whole I think France probably deserved the win after they made most of the forward running but were often frustrated by the lack of opportunities down the centre of the field. They were forced out wide and it never paid off for them but I think they have more than enough quality to break through the Ukrainian defences.
On the whole I see France coming away with this one but it may not be as easy as first thought. Ukraine did well to overcome Sweden and national pride will be at an all time high. Also they will have seen the defensive tactics employed by England in the last game work and may choose to use them themselves. If they do I think we can expect a relatively dull encounter with France scraping a narrow win.
Sweden V England
Sweden remain unbeaten against England in competitive matches and the last three have all ended level. Bottom of the pile in Group D the Swedes will be hoping scorer against Ukraine Zlatan Ibrahimovic can keep up his fantastic scoring form at the Euros against England. But their performance against Ukraine was nothing short of dyer. In the first half they only threatened once when Ibrahimovic headed onto the post and seemed to have gotten into the game in the second half when Ibrahimovic found the goal to put them 1-0 up. Ukraine’s first goal did come against the run of play but after it Sweden looked like a Sunday league side until they finally went 2-1 down. They ended the game strong but still lacked any real penetration so they will need a much improved performance against the English to avoid being left behind in Group D.
Roy Hodgson’s England side went all defensive against France and came away with a point but they will know that if they employ the same tactic against Sweden they face another draw. The difference between France and Sweden is that France are more dangerous on the attack so England were somewhat forced back into their own half but today they have to be more adventurous to avoid yet more international embarrassment. Their performance in the first game did have some flaws though; there were just a few instances where England looked sloppy in defence and that will need fixing for tonights game.
On the whole I see this going to England, I think the decreased firepower of Sweden when compared to France will encourage them to be more adventurous and go straight on the attack. Despite several flaws they still looked solid defensively and Sweden didn’t look great offensively so I struggle to see them coming away with anything.