Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Euro Round-About - Group D

Day Four of the 2012 European Football Championships, a.k.a Euro 2012. The final set of teams to see action, with teams trying to reclaim lost glory highlighting the constitution of the group.

England - The Three Lions have been hungry for success in the sport that they claim is their birthright. Although they have been successful in the road to the Ukraine, the drama has since ratcheted up. Fabio Capello resigns as manager after John Terry gets stripped of the captaincy. Wayne Rooney gets himself suspended for two matches. Players dropping off like flies due to injuries incurred, whether in training or in friendlies. Now, it's up to Roy Hodgson to get them ready. Stability is set on goal with Joe Hart. The 4-2-3-1 will need solid defensive tacticians on the field, and the English have one of the best left backs in Ashley Cole. They'll miss Gary Cahill's partnership with John Terry, but look for Joleon Lescott  to step up. The wings will be ok with James Milner and Ashley Young, as well as the Arsenal duo of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but there is concern given the fitness of captain Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker in central midfield, especially with Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard ruled out. Acting as placeholders for Rooney will be his teammate in Manchester United, Danny Welbeck, or Andy Carroll.

France - Les Bleus were an embarrassment under Raymond Domenech, so the change to Laurent Blanc was a welcome addition. Under his stewardship, they have suffered just one defeat. The lineup is led up front by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who scored 28 goals for them last season, with up-and-coming Oliver Giroud as his contemporary. Attacking options in their midfield will be coming from the diminutive Franck Ribery, alongside the likes of Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa. Veteran Florent Malouda will buddy up with young Yann M'Vila in the middle as the French will try to dominate possession and give Karim and Franck plentiful of scoring opportunities. Giving assistance to the captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will be a defense led by a couple of Manchester players, United's Patrice Evra and City's Gael Clichy.

Sweden - The disappointment not advancing in the 2010 World Cup ended long-time manager Lars Lagerback's reign with the squad. The new regime is led by Erik Hamren, whose 4-2-3-1 system has the added wrinkle of using captain and AC Milan star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a support role behind a lead striker, which most likely will be Galatasaray's Johan Elmander. Making sure Zlatan and Johan get good scoring chances are the likes of Sebastian Larsson in midfield, Rasmus Elm and sage veteran Anders Svensson. Half of the Olsson twins of Blackburn Rovers made the trip to the Ukraine, and it is the defender Martin. He, along with Olof Mellberg, will make things easy for Andreas Isaksson on goal.

Ukraine - The co-hosts will be relying on the spirit and legacy of their forward captain, Andriy Shevchenko, best known for his scoring exploits in AC Milan and the disappointment that followed in Chelsea. He now plays for Dynamo Kyiv, which has nine players in the national side. The other big team in Ukrainian football is Shaktar Donetsk, which has six, and that includes their starting keeper Andriy Pyatov. All-in-all, only two players from the Euro side do not ply their trade in their domestic league, and those two are integral to what manager Oleg Blokhin wants to implement. One is Andriy Voronin, the former Liverpool forward now with Dynamo Moscow, who will be lined up alongside Shevchenko. The other is Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who will be integral in easing off the pressure against a relatively untested defense and a goal-keeper originally pegged as its fourth-string. They also have Andriy Yarmolenko, a winger who can shepherd the offense to the forwards or score on his own.

Who advances? - France wins the group, with Sweden stealing the runners-up spot.

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