The final day of the Euro 2012 group stage arrives with three teams in Group D fighting for their spot in the quarterfinals. France play pointless Sweden, who don’t seem that interested in posing much of an obstacle, while a very confident England plays another host nation, Ukraine, needing a win to stay alive in the tournament.
England – Ukraine
A confident England is a less dangerous one, but England have more than one reason to be confident. Their 3-2 win over Sweden has got them believing in Roy Hodgson all of a sudden, showing that the team does have some attacking merits in its midst. Having Wayne Rooney back from suspension brings on a whole new kind of confidence, maybe too much.
England can move on with a draw, but finishing second presents itself with the unwelcome chance of facing Spain in the quarterfinal. Italy, as weird as that sound, seem like a better option. And playing for a draw hardly ever works, especially for a side like England. There are no such problems for the co-hosts, Ukraine, trying to avoid the fate of Poland, needing a win to carry on. Nothing else will do.
Andriy Shevchenko is still highly doubtful for the start, but the strength of this side isn’t in their aging, legendary striker. It’s in their wings with Yarmolenko and with Tymoschuk and his ability to control the midfield and dictate the pace. England have lost in their only match ever against the side away, in a garbage time match during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
Sweden – France
It’s been more than 40 years since Sweden last managed to beat France, since then meeting 10 times, with the French winning six of those matches. It’s hard to see Erik Hamren and his players, who don’t have anything to play for but spoil for others, stopping a French side that looked very efficient and confident against a highly motivated Ukrainian side.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic seems to be more interested in his summer vacation, short as it might be, while the rest of his squad don’t seem to have the talent needed to get something out of this tournament. All France need is a draw to qualify, although already knowing their options for quarterfinals partners, a win which means facing Italy and avoiding Spain, is highly recommended.
Rather simple for Ukraine – Win or go home. Any kind of win over England puts them in the quarterfinals. If France don’t beat Sweden, that means the winner of England and Ukraine goes as the top team in the group. Both England and France only need a draw to qualify, with France is better position thanks to goal difference. Sweden are out of the qualifying picture.
Predictions – Everything we hear and see regarding the Swedish side suggests no motivation left in the players. They’ll play a rather open game, with nothing to lose, which should suit the French team just fine. England will have a harder time against the Ukraine, but if they do the dare to win, like they did against Sweden, they should come up with the three points again.
Game Times – England and Ukraine play in Donetsk, hoping that there won’t be any rainstorm this time that will delay the start of the game, while France and Sweden play in Kiev. Both matches on the same time at 20:45.