A semi group of death, if Sweden were six years ago and England had a side people believed in. France look like the talented bunch, this time without any social problems; England look like a mess, no matter how you look at it; Sweden put their hopes on Zlatan Ibrahimovic; Ukraine hope home advantage still means something.
The failures under Domenech in Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, with France finishing the tournament after only three matches paved the way to the Laurent Blanc era. The qualifying didn’t go swimmingly, but France seemed to have turned into a well formed unit, with grit in the back and a lot of style and flair up front.
Franck Ribery is the barometer for the substance up front, with Karim Benzema going through a breakthrough season for club and country. Their recent form has shown that the French should be among the favorites for the title, just below the Spaniards, German and Dutch sides. Their high pressing and quick passing game, if executed correctly, should be one of the best things to look forward to in the Euro.
Because there are no expectations this time, with only criticism and controversy surrounding this team, something good has got to come out of it, right? Problems with the defense and with those left out, a manager who’s never really succeeded with above average clubs and somehow, at least for the opener, it’s all up to Steven Gerrard to keep it all together.
Wayne Rooney will be back in the second match, but England’s 4-4-2 seems so out of date, with an out of date manager trying to hold the lines. There’s talent on this side, despite all the negative vibe, but the problems is there someone to glue them all together?
Two words – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That’s what you get and expect from a side that’s as always, solid all around, but lacks flair or spark except for it’s front man, who on his good days is the best striker in the world. What else? Not much else. Hamren has hinted at the fact that Sweden will play a defensive minded game when facing England and France, in something of a 4-2-3-1 tactic.
Off of Ibrahimovic will be playing either Johan Elmander ot Feyenoord’s hat trick machine, John Guidetti, with Rasmus Elm and Seb Larsson as the key men in the attacking midfield. This time, it might be enough to make it through the group stage.
Not a lot of faith in the co-hosts because of the difficult group they were drawn into. Shevchenko is here, but his peak was probably 6-7 years ago, and he’ll probably hang up his boots when the tournament is over after a hall of fame career. Other than that, it seems the side in entrenched and engulfed in rivalry between Shakhtar and Dynamo Kiev players.
Oleg Blokhin is trying to keep it all together, relying heavily on Dynamo’s Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleg Husiev. It shouldn’t be enough to really impress; Maybe fail to win a match at all, although this side surprised everyone in the 2006 World Cup by making it into the knockout stages.
Prediction – The French side will not implode this time, and is by far the most talented in the group. Because England look like such a mess they’ll be a bit more humble going into the matches, and I think they’ll squeak into second, with Sweden a close third. The Ukraine look like the weakest side in the tournament.