Group D teams:
Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
Monday 11th June: France v England, Ukraine v Sweden
Friday 15th June: Ukraine v France, Sweden v England
Tuesday 19th June: England v Ukraine, Sweden v France
Odds at Bet365
To win Euro 2012: Ukraine +5000, Sweden +6600, France +1000, England +1100
To win Group D: Ukraine +450, Sweden +600, France +150, England +163
The opening group games of Euro 2012 are expected to deliver some enthralling matches, and Group D is certainly no exception.
France against England is likely to be one of the most highly anticipated ties of the tournament, just as it was at Euro 2004. The French won that game – only just – but they are not the same force they once were.
Les Bleus do still possess some talented stars – Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema stand out – and they have a host of young players who are starting to make an impact in the major European leagues too.
They are certainly dangerous but with England going into the competition with a new manager in Roy Hodgson, they should go into the opener on Monday 11th June high in confidence.
The Three Lions will be missing the talismanic Wayne Rooney for the first two group games due to suspension, but the likes of captain Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck all pose a serious attacking threat and will severely test France’s stubborn backline.
On the same day, co-hosts Ukraine begin their first-ever European Championship campaign with a match against Sweden, and just like Poland in Group A, they will be heavily backed in their own country.
The home support may be a crucial factor in helping Ukraine gain three crucial points, but you can’t overlook the Swedes, who have considerable experience at major international tournaments and are always a tricky opponent to play against. In Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they have one of Europe’s most deadly strikers and he will be hoping to carry his domestic form onto the international stage.
If the co-hosts were to lose, they will face the even bigger task of defeating the French in their second group match on Friday 15th June. France beat Ukraine 4-1 in a friendly in Donetsk last year while a look at the Ukrainians’ defensive record suggests they will struggle against the potent French attack.
The Eastern Europeans do score goals though, but will be up against one of the most miserly defences in qualifying – France only conceded four goals in 10 games en route to Euro 2012. This game, therefore, looks a tall order for Oleh Blokhin’s men.
Hodgson’s troops take on Sweden later in the evening and over the years, the Swedes have been one of England’s bogey teams. The two sides drew against each other in the group stages at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but there is a feeling that England may have now broken their Swedish hoodoo.
Their recent friendly meeting, which England won 1-0, suggests Sweden will need to raise their game if they are to pick up points against the Three Lions.
Should England grab a win, it will set them up nicely for a tough test against Ukraine in their final group game on Tuesday 19th June. This tie should see the return of Rooney, whose presence in attack is likely to give England’s chances of progressing to the knockout stages a major boost.
However, with France and Sweden possibly vying for a place in the knockout stages too, England may need to win just to qualify. Added to this is that all four teams will be desperate to finish top of the group so as to avoid the winners of Group C in the last eight. This is most likely to be defending champions Spain.
Consequently, this group, like the others at Euro 2012, looks very difficult to call as all four teams are pretty evenly-matched and will feel they can beat the other sides on their day.
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