Les Bleus arising, and England disrupted – Group DPosted: June 8, 2012
With the European championships looming it’s time to assess each of the groups and take an in depth look into each side to see how they may fare in their group. In this piece I’ll be taking a look in to England’s group which sees them pitted against Sweden, hosts Ukraine and their inter-channel neighbours, France.
Most of the speculation and pre-tournament interest has been centred on Roy Hodgson as he was named England boss in wake of Capello’s resignation. His squad selection is also something which has sparked much debate, not least his decision to omit Rio Ferdinand from the squad in favour captaincy-stripped John Terry, who has yet to stand in court amidst being accused of racially abusing Rio’s brother, Anton.
Other eyebrow raising selection decisions made by Hodgson would be the inclusion of the Liverpool duo Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing, both of whom were selected ahead of players such as Peter Crouch and Andrew Johnson respectively. Since then, a couple of high-profile players have been forced to withdraw due to injury, including Chelsea pair Gary Cahill and Frank Lampard, with Jordan Henderson and Martin Kelly taking the honour of replacing them.
The group opens with the two favourites to qualify from the group going head to head, France and England. France are a nation whose football team is in the middle of a period of transition. Old guard players such as Thierry Henry and William Gallas and on a managerial front, Domenech, have made way for fresher faces to try and return back to the glory days of WC ’98 and Euro 2000. Whoever France come up against they will pose a potent threat with their attacking quadrant that they’ve been deploying as of late, with Nasri, Ben Arfa and Franck Ribery playing in behind Karim Benzema who’s been in scintillating for Real Madrid this season.
Elsewhere in France’s squad they have a lot of strength and depth, with Montpellier hit-man Olivier Giroud being available to call upon to assist or replace Benzeman, and in midfield they have key holding players such as Arsenal target Yann M’Vila and Blaise Matuidi who will stabilise their formation.
The Swedes booked their automatic place in the group stages via means of finishing as the best runner-up across all of the qualifying groups. It’s no doubt that any joy that they hope to have in this tournament will be pivoted around the form and performances of talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedes will certainly be up against it in this group as the English and Les Bleus will be heavily expected to qualify from the group and their other opponent comes in the form of home side Ukraine, who in theory will possess an advantage over them.
For the Ukrainians on the other hand, I don’t really hold much hope of them making any further than the group stages. Their participation in the competition being due to the fact they are hosts, and also I feel the little bit of extra pressure and expectation to excel could be too much for them.
As always is at major international tournaments, I expect the opening games to be very cagey affairs with all sides being reluctant to take any risks as losing the first game due to one error immediately makes qualifying much more difficult and heaps the pressure on for the remaining two games.
For me, out of this group I can only see England and France progressing. England will be determined as ever as their wait for international glory lingers on and France have been ever improving with each passing year adding more and more young promising players to their rank, and I feel that they could be the tournaments dark horses this year as all eyes will be fixed on the Germans and the Spanish.