The ‘final’ day of the first round brings us another big match of Europe’s old-firm, with the suddenly talented and confident France facing England in Group D, reaching this tournament without a shred of expectation or belief behind them. Sweden feel pretty good about themselves because of Zlatan, hoping it’ll start showing in the opener against the co-hosts of the Ukraine.
France – England
Does anyone remember England heading into a tournament in such a mode and low expectancy level? Captain Steven Gerrard is sending mixed messages – Saying England might just surprise everyone, but is also saying that a loss in the opener isn’t that terrible. Hodgson will probably play in a 4-4-1-1 formation, somehow trying to compensate for Wayne Rooney’ suspension, with Danny Welbeck probably the starting striker.
France haven’t lost in 21 matches and are heading into the tournament booming with confidence and oozing with style. Laurent Blanc’s method has turned the team into an attacking and pressing squad, with a lot of position switching between the front four, while Ribery and Benzema both had fantastic seasons. Their recent results against England should put their mind at ease as well.
Ukraine – Sweden
Just like Poland, the Ukraine national side is hoping that the home crowd will give them enough of a boost to make it through their difficult group, although a look at their squad and rivals might suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, in the camp, the food poisoning took the main headlines, with cries of conspiracy heard all around. When you get down to it, this team still relies on Andriy Shevchenko to find the net, which he finds harder and harder with every passing year.
Sweden also have their striker to rely on, who just happens to be the top scorer in the Serie A this passing season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In general, after missing the 2010 World Cup, there’s been somewhat of a change in the Swedish philosophy, involving a more open game, resulting in more goals. In the center of that counter attacking, quick passing style installed by Erik Hamren is Ibra of all people, navigating and finishing most of what comes his way.
Predictions – I’ll try and keep my mind to make the decisions and not follow gut feelings that ruined the betting for us yesterday. France are a better team than England in pretty much every aspect, including their head coach. England struggle scoring, and I won’t be surprised to see them lose 2-0. Enthusiasm won’t help Blokhin’s side, who are inferior to the Swedes. Sweden win 2-1.
How did we do – Going with Spain wasn’t that bad, but Italy pinched a goal, messing up our prediction. We’re backing Croatia to finish second in group c but still, Ireland gave off good vibes prior to the match. So Far – 3 for 6, 50%.
Game Times – France and England open things up at 19:00 at the beautiful Donbass Arena in Donetsk, followed by the Ukraine and Sweden on 21:45, playing at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.