Euro 2012 Group D: England takes on France, Sweden and Ukraine

Group D will be interesting to watch as England, France, Sweden, and co-host Ukraine battle it out for the top two spots. This group will be fascinating to see unfold.

Unfortunately for England, they have run into many issues in the build-up to the Euro this time around such as Italian coach Fabio Capello walking out and losing key players to injury and suspension. Capello decided to leave the national side when he heard news of the Football Association’s decision to strip John Terry of the captain’s armband due to allegations that Terry racially insulted Queens Park Rangers’ player, Anton Ferdinand. Fabio thought this was unjust and left the post after many years of building chemistry in the squad and placing trust in the youth. Furthermore, English fan favourite Wayne Rooney will sit out a two-match ban in the opening round of the Euro for a red card received against Montenegro in qualifying. This will be detrimental to England’s chances to score and ultimately qualify for the second round as they will take on very determined sides in France and Sweden. To add to the Englishmen’s misery, Gareth Bale and Frank Lampard picked up knocks that will count them out of the tournament and this will most definitely take its toll on the defence and midfield no doubt. Brutal! There is always pressure on England to perform at the highest levels, but will they be able to do it amid all these issues? My opinion is that England has been over-rated for many years now anyway. High hopes for nothing – three and out!

France is determined to have a strong Euro this year after all the turmoil that hit the nation during the time of Raymond Domenech. The French had a disastrous World Cup in South Africa having lost twice and drawn once. The players, especially Anelka, were refusing to cooperate with coach Domenech. Now, Laurent Blanc has taken control and it is looking good for Les Bleus.  The side has been rejuvenated with talented youth and seems motivated to do well in this tourney. The French will be depending on the strength of the midfield with players such as Florent Malouda, Alou Diarra, Samir Nasri, and Franck Ribery as well as hoping that Karim Benzema shows his quality on an international stage as he did for club side Real Madrid this term. It must be noted that France will be without playmaker Yoann Gourcuff who asked Laurent Blanc to leave him out of the final 23-man squad and, will therefore not take part in Euro 2012. This is a major setback for France, but they will learn to cope with it. Look for the French to surprise and finish first.

Sweden has been qualifying consistently for major tournaments for quite some time now. The Swedes, though, do not usually have any notable superstars. This time around, they do with golden boot nominee Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will aim to put his country on the map. Sweden’s main strength is displayed through team unity. In order for the yellow shirts to survive this group, they must continue to develop their team unity, supply Ibra with the ball and hope he continues to score as he has done for club AC Milan this season. If they are capable of succeeding at this task, then watch out Group D!

Ukraine is hosting a major tournament for the first time. The Ukranians will be relying on superstar veteran Andriy Shevchenko as well as Andriy Voronin, and Anatoily Tymoshcuk. But at their age it might be too much pressure on these individuals to lead their nation. I believe this will be a short tourney for the Ukraine.

My predictions:

1)    France

2)    Sweden

3)    England

4)    Ukraine