Football

Euro 2012: Group D preview

In this latest edition of GMF's Euro 2012 preview, we provide an in-depth breakdown of the teams competing in Group D of this year's international tournament.


England


England have regularly failed to live up to expectations at major international tournaments. But this year is different. The penny seems to have dropped, and reality has kicked in. Roy Hodgson's men are not the world-beaters they are so often portrayed as. And, with expectations at an all-time low, maybe England can play without fear, spring a surprise or two and go the whole way?

Star man: Joe Hart

In Joe Hart, England have one of the best shot-stoppers in the world. The Manchester City 'keeper played an integral role as the Citizens claimed their first league title for 44 years. And, the 25-year-old will be looking to take his winning mentality into the European Championships with England.

With talisman Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two group fixtures, goals could be few and far between. Roy Hodgson has already set about making his side hard to beat, and this 'building from the back' approach relies on Hart to be at the top of his game.

Manager: Roy Hodgson

Under Roy Hodgson, England expects...not a lot actually. That is no smear on Hodgson as a manager, though. In fact, the well-travelled 64-year-old has a plethora of previous experience to draw upon in his biggest managerial test yet. The England job is Hodgson's fourth international appointment, and the former West Brom chief has coached in eight countries in all.

Hodgson will need to draw on all his previous knowledge if he is to guide England to any sort of success in Poland and Ukraine this summer, but the Three Lions boss remains upbeat and yet refreshingly realistic about England's chances.

World ranking: 6

Best ever Euro performance: Semi-finalists (1996)

Fixtures:

Vs France - June 11, Donetsk.

Vs Sweden - June 15, Kiev.

Vs Ukraine - June 19, Donetsk.

France

Two years ago, France endured one of the most arduous international tournaments in their sporting history. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, internal problems were to blame for their failure to qualify from the group stages. Fast forward to 2012, and the rancour has been well and truly left behind.

Under the management of Laurent Blanc, France are on an unbeaten run spanning 20 games, and they go into the European Championships with more unity and confidence than ever before.

Star man: Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema can only be described as the world's best, old-fashioned centre-forward. The Real Madrid front-man is charged with the task of firing the French to Euro glory, and with 15 goals to date, the 24-year-old will be looking to improve on his international strike rate in Ukraine and Poland this summer.

Manager: Laurent Blanc

The veteran defender has brought the same class and composure to management that epitomised his playing career. Blanc has single-handedly transformed the fortunes of the French national side, and their upturn in form has resulted in many pundits backing France as outsiders to win the competition outright.

Under the tutelage of Blanc and with a young, hungry and exciting squad built around the exceptional generation of players born in 1987, France have every chance of achieving big things.

World ranking: 14

Best ever Euro performance: Winners (1984, 2000)

Fixtures:

Vs England - June 11, Donetsk.

Vs Ukraine - June 15, Donetsk.

Vs Sweden - June 19, Kiev.

Sweden

Hard-working, competent and consistent. Sweden are solid across the field but as has been their problem in years gone by, they continue to lack any real flair, but for their opinion-dividing and title-winning striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

That said, Sweden's defensive vulnerabilities are likely to be their undoing. Olof Mellberg is yet to strike up a formidable partnership at the back, and the lack of a reliable partner going into the tournament will prove to be a hinderance.

Qualification from Group D will be considered an achievement for Erik Hamren's side, and the Swedes should have enough about them to ensure that progression is far from certain for the group favourites, France and England.

Star man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

To say the hopes of a nation rest upon the shoulders of one individual seems drastic and over-the-top, but in the case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden, no truer words have ever been spoken.

The AC Milan striker is a national icon in his homeland, and as the stand-out performer in an otherwise unspectacular Sweden side, all eyes will be on the 30-year-old frontman as he attempts to score the goals that give the Swedes the opportunity to progress from a group where they are considered longshots.

Manager: Erik Hamren

Following his appointment in 2009, Erik Hamren has helped Sweden bounce back from the disappointment of missing the 2010 World Cup to qualify for Euro 2012 as best runner-up.

Hamren's success has been based around an attacking style of play, with the 54-year-old keen to encourage his players to play without fear.

Favouring an attacking approach over the more pragmatic style of former Sweden manager Lars Lagerback, the contrast in style between Hamren and and his predecessor couldn't be any more apparent.

Having won cups in Sweden and titles in Denmark and Norway, Hamren has set about reinvigorating Sweden with his attacking philosophy. Yet Hamren's greatest strength is his ability to instil belief into his side.

Having masterminded the crucial 3-2 win over Holland in the final group game of the qualifying campaign, Sweden's opponents should take that win as a warning, with the Swedes believing that on their day, they can beat anyone.

World ranking: 17

Best ever Euro performance: Semi-finalists (1992)

Fixtures:

Vs Ukraine - June 11, Kiev.

Vs England - June 15, Kiev.

Vs France - June 19, Kiev.

Ukraine

Although Ukraine are hardly renowned for their footballing prowess, the opportunity to achieve success in Euro 2012 on home soil is one that cannot be spurned.

Managed by Ukrainian legend Oleg Blokhin, there has been little purpose or direction to the Ukraine national team in the build-up to the tournament due to the lack of a qualification process.

But, the co-hosts strength lies in their attack. The headline name, of course, is Andrei Shevchenko, but at 35 years of age, the former Chelsea striker is in the twilight of his career and this could be the last time he is seen on the international stage.

Roared on by the partisan crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine should have no problems scoring, but with their first-choice 'keeper injured, Andrei Dikan, keeping them out the other end may prove troublesome.

Having surprised everyone by reaching the knockout stages of World Cup 2006, Ukraine will be hoping for a repeat performance at Euro 2012.

Star man: Andrei Shevchenko

Although the former Chelsea striker is not guaranteed a starting role at this summer's championships, Shevchenko is likely to be the headline maker in an otherwise unfashionable Ukraine side.

Still going strong in his second spell at Dynamo Kiev, Shevchenko will be looking to fire his country to success on home soil, but the former European Footballer of the Year may have to be content with a bit-part role as he brings down the curtain on his international career.

In a strike force that contains the slightly less old and certainly less legendary Andrei Voronin, Shevchenko will have to be at his best if he is to play a prominent role, but you'd be a fool to write Shevchenko off completely.

Manager: Oleg Blokhin

Oleg Blokhin has been a football icon in Ukraine for years. As one of the best players the country has ever produced, you'd be forgiven for thinking that his status is unimprovable. Yet, if the 59-year-old can guide Ukraine through Group D and into the latter stages of Euro 2012, that view would have to be reconsidered.

Having won the Ballon d'Or in 1975 before dragging Ukraine to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup, Blokhin is well aware of what is required to be successful. But, achieving anything with his current charges would surely top even the most decorated of CVs.

Currently in his second-spell as Ukraine manager, Blokhin has the unenviable task of finishing above two of England, France and Sweden. And, as one of the lowest ranked teams in the competition, it's hardly surprising that numerous pundits are predicting an early exit for the co-hosts.

World ranking: 52

Best ever Euro performance: 2nd in Qualifying Group (lost to Slovenia in the playoffs)

Fixtures:

Vs Sweden - June 11, Kiev.

Vs France - June 15, Donetsk.

Vs England - June 19, Donetsk.

Topics:
Internationals
Football

Article Comments

Trending

Read more