Fan Fuel: Shevchenko powering Ukraine at Euro 2012
The Ukraine head into the match today with France on a massive high, after team captain and legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko scored two beautifully headed goals in the Ukraine’s opening match come from behind 2-1 victory over Sweden. Shevchenko almost looks like a kid out there, his joy at scoring in front of his home support undoubtedly overwhelming for the Ukrainian talisman. And the great support they received in match day one may be enough to push the Ukraine past France today. The Ukraine will need their key guys, such as Shevchenko and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, to make strong contributions to every game they are involved in, for them to have a chance.
The French probably deserved better versus England, but their back line looks shaky, and if Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin are in the mood today, France could have some problems with their opponents. The French midfield did look good in game one, though Florent Malouda’s central role seemed an odd move, perhaps sparked by Yann M’Vila’s fitness issues. M’Vila may be ready today, and he’s a player I’m looking forward to seeing. He’s been compared to Patrick Vieira, and seems a holding mid to be equal parts a creative passer, and a hardnosed tackler. Franck Ribery looked dangerous much of their first match, and he’s probably the key component in France’s attacking amalgam. His pace and technical ability make him a handful for any defender, and how the Ukraine reign Ribery in will be key to their success.
I’m thinking spirit will take a front seat in today’s match, and the Ukraine will ride their support to a famous victory. If France is to equal or better the Ukraine, they’ll need a rousing performance to match the home team’s intensity. I’m not certain that is a fundamental characteristic of this French team, so I’ll go 2-1 to the Ukraine.
The second match of group D features Sweden hosting England. The Swedes will have a measure of desperation to their play today, as their opening game defeat leaves them in a must win situation versus England. Team captain and superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic found the net in game one, and he will be the main threat to England in today’s match. Ibrahimovic is playing in a withdrawn role behind lone central striker Markus Rosenberg, so keeping a handle on him will require one of England’s holding mids (either Scott Parker or Steven Gerrard) to limit his opportunities.
I don’t like this match up at all from England’s perspective. If they don’t play either Phil Jones or even Phil Jagielka in one of the two holding roles, Ibrahimovic will probably have a field day. Neither Parker nor Gerrard will be able to handle him. As well, set plays may end up being a very important part of the match for both teams. Sweden’s Seb Larsson is a great dead ball specialist, and if the English give up too many fouls in key areas, that may be their undoing.
England held on for draw in their first match versus France, and this looks to be one of the weaker sides England has fielded in years at an international tournament. They basically dropped two lines of four in front of the 18 yard box, and it was a rather uninspired effort, Joleon Lescott’s bullet header (for their goal) aside. They look devoid of creativity without the still suspended Wayne Rooney, though deputizing striker Danny Wellbeck looked decent up front. The midfield was largely anonymous, and so it would appear that for England to have success in this game, they will have to continue to rely on a strong defensive posture, with their hopes placed upon lethal counter attacks.
I just don’t think this midfield has enough talent to make England any sort of threat to the Swedes, especially if Gerrard continues in a deep holding role. Gerrard is a direct player, and he really isn’t suited to being an effective holding midfielder. If manager Roy Hodgson drops in either Jagielka or (more likely) Phil Jones to a holding role, and pushes Gerrard up, then Wellbeck may have someone to help try and break down the Swedish backline. Otherwise, Wellback will end up being isolated up front, and while he’s good team oriented striker, he’s not really a guy who will pull a moment of individual brilliance out of his hat, and so for England to have impact today, Hodgson must adjust.
I’m thinking this match ends up in a 1-1 draw. If Ibrahimovic is inspired today, England may be in for a long day. Conversely, a more attacking role for Steven Gerrard may allow the English to surprise a bit. But I think both teams will favour a conservative approach, and a draw would seem to be on the cards