Only 15 days remain before the start of Euro 2012, and we here at soccerprose are getting anxious. This is arguably the second most important international competition behind the World Cup. It also provides us with an opportune time in between World Cups to get our international soccer fix before we go crazy. With that all being said, we now bring you the fourth part of our four part series on all the groups at Euro 2012.
Group D is one of the hardest groups to choose the two teams that will advance. The group consists of France, England, Sweden, and Ukraine. All of these teams, excluding Ukraine, have a good shot at advancing past the group stages.
France is likely the favorite and is looking to have a good showing following their disastrous 2010 World Cup. They have experience winning the Euro trophy previously. In both 1984 and 2000, France was named European champions and they are hoping to reach that mark again at Euro 2012. Their qualifying record was nothing spectacular, but neither are any of the teams that are in this group. They won six games, drew three times, and lost once. They also scored 15 goals while only conceding four. Although they do not concede many goals, they have had a difficult time scoring, averaging only 1.5 goals per game. They are going to need a good tournament from Karim Benzema if they are to go far. He had a good season for Real Madrid, scoring 21 goals and adding seven assists in 34 games. A problem for France could be injuries. Bacary Sagna is out of the tournament after breaking his leg, and Loic Remy is struggling to get fit after suffering a thigh injury.
England is an interesting team in this group and for the tournament. The appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager was controversial and he followed his controversial appointment with an interesting squad selection for Euro 2012. It is a very defensive-looking squad and there are not many goal-scorers other than Rooney. This could be a problem since Rooney is suspended for the first two games of the tournament. However, England’s goalkeeper, Joe Hart, and the defense are very strong, which could help England. If England is going to advance far in this tournament, they are going to need to use a similar blueprint to how Chelsea was able to win the Champions League. They must defend strongly and hope to get a goal on the counterattack against the run-of-play. If England are to make it out of the group stage, they could be an interesting team to watch, especially if they are able to defend as well as Chelsea did in the Champions League, since they have John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, and Frank Lampard all in the squad.
The last two teams in the group are Sweden and Ukraine. Sweden had a fairly successful qualifying campaign, winning eight and losing two. During their qualifying, they scored 31 goals and only conceded 11. Sweden has a good shot at making it through the group stages as well. Sweden has shown that they can play with good teams. In qualifying they lost to the Netherlands 2-1 in their first meeting, but were able to keep the game close. In their second meeting, they beat the Netherlands 3-2, so they have the ability to beat big-name teams in the tournament and cause some issues. Ukraine, on the other hand, has almost no chance of making it past the group stage. This is the first time they have qualified for the Euro’s and it is only because they are co-hosting the tournament. In the lead-up to Euro 2012, Ukraine won only five games out of 18. They also lost to France, Italy, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, which are some other teams in this tournament. Therefore, the future looks bleak for Ukraine at Euro 2012. However, looking on the bright side, they won’t have to travel far to get home after being bounced from the tournament.
For Group D, I see the men in England jerseys and the men in France jerseys advancing. I do think this will be a close group between the top three teams, but ultimately, I think France is too talented and England’s defense is too strong. England, contrary to what most people think, will go far in this tournament and shock a few people. Expectations are lower than usual for the Three Lion’s and that could help take some pressure off, so they can perform better. Group D should be a fun group to watch no matter who advances (assuming you’re watching from a neutral perspective).
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
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