The boys in yellow made to feel blue – Group D analysisPosted: June 15, 2012
Friday evenings Euro 2012 action saw two electrifying games take place between France & Ukraine and England & Sweden.
The opening game of the day was France vs Ukraine, in which the French truly rained on Ukraine’s parade (I’ll stop with the thunder storm puns now) following their Group D opener vs Sweden which saw them to come back from being a goal down to a Zlatan Ibrahimovich strike, to win the game 2-1 thanks to Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko.
However, the fairy tale story for Ukraine was taken away from them as France snatched a 2-0 victory after the two teams were deadlocked for a majority of the game.
The game itself was abandoned after 4 minutes after a freak thunder storm hit the stadium, however, the game was later resumed when it cleared and the water on the pitch was drained away.
When the game restarted, it was France who always looked like winning this one, with Jérémy Ménez having a handful of chances at Andrei Pyatov’s goal but failing to convert any in the first half. Instead, he had to wait until the second half to finally score, when he cut inside and slotted it in to the near corner.
A goal from one of Newcastle United’s new stars, Yohan Cabaye, quickly followed 4 minutes later, both goals being assisted by Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema, who had good, but goalless, game. Another player who had a good game was Franck Ribery, who ran down the left wing all game, creating the space for France’s numerous chances on goal.
However, Ukraine did not sit back and allow the French to walk all over them all game, with youngster, Andriy Yarmolenko being the most vocal point of Ukraine’s attack with bags of skill and pace, it was evident why Shevchenko had named him “the future of Ukrainian football”.
Due to the temporary postponement in the France-Ukraine game, fans watching England vs Sweden had to wait until 8pm (GMT) for kick off, not knowing that they were in store for arguably the game of the tournament so far.
Roy Hodgson’s lads, wearing their blue away strip, had only change from their opener with France, unleashing number 9 Andy Carroll to take advantage of Sweden’s inability to deal with crosses, as shown vs Ukraine with both of Shevchenko’s goals being headers.
England started brightly, having taken notes from France in passing it seems, they moved the ball comfortably between each other, keeping the vast majority of possession in the first half, with Sweden seeming to just hand it back to them when they lost it.
With Carroll upfront, the midfield duo, skipper Stevie Gerrard and Scott Parker, worked the ball in the middle until a clear path for one of the wingers, James Milner and Ashley Young, appeared which would result in a crossing opportunity, and it nearly worked out early on when Milner found Danny Welbeck in the box, who headed it wide of Andreas Isaksson’s goal.
However, their hard graft rewarded them mid way through when a spectacular early cross from Gerrard found Carroll in the box and the big man made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
It wasn’t all one way though, with Sweden’s skipper Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at times completely over powering the English defence, but hung onto the ball too long and usually failed when trying to pick out a team mate.
I found that when Sweden got into Joe Hart’s box in the first half they usually attempted fancy flicks to each other instead of being efficient and keeping hold of the ball which usually resulted in their attacks being broke down.
I expect a lot of back lash for this shout, but, I found Glen Johnson had yet another solid game (I stress “solid”, not brilliant) at right back for England in the defending criteria that people usually criticise him in. Apart from mistakes in both of Sweden’s second half goals, he seemed to win most challenges, most notably when Rasmus Elm almost got through on goal, Johnson was there to put in a hard challenge to put the ball out to safety. He was definitely no worse, if not better, than the other England defenders, who again, defended far too deep for my likings, but that is what you get with a Roy Hodgson team.
Both of the goals England conceded came from very poorly defended free kicks with beardo hero Olof Mellberg reacquainting himself with the English after the former Aston Villa man scored both after being left mostly unmarked in the box. He was probably the man who impressed me the most during the game for the Swedes, as he was as much of a beast in his own box as he was in our box, the battle for aerial dominance between him and Andy Carroll was a joy to watch.
At 2-1 down, the turn in play for England came as Theo Walcott came on for the fading James Milner, with the Arsenal man scoring an impressive equaliser which lobbed Isaksson despite being closed down by which looked to be the whole Swedish team, and then he went on to set up Danny Welbeck, who scored the winner with a heeled finish. He was also unlucky not to set up a 4th goal when his cross was met by Gerrard whose shot was saved by the Swedish stopper.
With this defeat it sees Sweden become the second team to book an early flight home after Ireland were knocked out by Spain last night. Two of the remaining group D teams, France and England are now equal on points with 4, while Ukraine are currently in 3rd with 3 point, which means it is all to play for in the remaining fixtures.