Andriy Shevchenko was undoubtedly the hero of the last day of Euro 2012 first round of matches, scoring twice in the Ukraine’s 2-1 win over Sweden, putting them at the top of Group D. England defended well enough against France to secure a 1-1 draw, giving Roy Hodgson a decent start against a much better opponent.
France 1 England 1
England came into the game as huge underdogs according, to, well, everyone. They didn’t play well and were busy defending and sending long balls most of the time, while France danced around and showed some superb skills and passing.
But Joleon Lescott connected with a Steven Gerrard header, and the only time France managed to best Joe Hart was through Samir Nasri’s shot from outside the box. The rest was mostly passing around the edges and Karim Benzema attempting to find the net to no avail.
Ukraine 2 Sweden 1
Surprises do happen, and it wasn’t only the fact that Andriy Shevhcenko showed everyone he still got it. Sweden disappointed everyone with a flat and lackluster display, getting the go ahead goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who else) in contrast to everything that was going on the pitch.
But that only lighted up the host nation and fired up the crowd. A great and industrious game from the men around and behind Shevchenko - Evgeni Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleg Gusev, was what made all the difference for most of the match, as Sweden failed to find anything that works except for one instance until the very last moments of the game, when it was simply too late.
Group D Table
1. Ukraine, 3 Points (2-1)
2. England, 1 Point (1-1)
-. France, 1 Point (1-1)
4. Sweden, 0 Points (1-2)
1. Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Mario Mandžukić (Croatia), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine) – 2 Goals
2. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Mario Gomez (Germany), Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Nikica Jelavic (Croatia), Sean St Ledger (Ireland), Joleon Lescott (England), Samir Nasri (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) – 1 Goal
What We’ve Learned
France – Teams will fall back against them, and they’ll have to be quicker with their passing and off the ball movement to manage and create more space against tight defenses. Both Ribery and Karim Benzema weren’t accurate enough with their finishing touches, while England did show that a quick offense can cause trouble to the questionable French defense.
England – Not as bad as some thought they’d be. There’s nothing really organized when they attack, but they do defend very well, in classic English form with the two four-men lines. A bit more daring from their midfielders (Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker) might do a world of good, because they shouldn’t be so content with defending most of the time.
Ukraine – Oleg Blokhin knew what he was doing by putting on Andriy Shevchenko for reasons besides respect for a local legend. Yarmolenko on one side, Konoplyanka on the other, showed the Ukrainians have a bit more to give than just enthusiasm and an aging legendary striker.
Sweden – The disappointment of the day. Not defensive, simply not good. There was no attacking determination from the side as Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to break free for most of the night and influence the match in ways he’s used to, while the others around him couldn’t take advantage of the extra attention their star player was getting.
Greece vs Czech Republic – From what we saw on the first day of the tournament, the Greeks should stick to defending and counter attacking, as the Czechs proved highly sensitive to that kind of style used against them.
Poland vs Russia – The Russians fired with everything they got on opening night, but warned everyone that they can play better. Poladn’s real test begins now, with the initial enthusiasm waning, and it’s time to show they have real football to give Europe and their fans.