With this Group D preview we conclude our previews of all the Euro sides, but by no means our Euro 2012 blog series, which will be running all the way up to kickoff. Group D features Ukraine, Sweden, France, and England.
Much like fellow co-hosts Poland, the Ukraine lags far behind the rest of the pack when it comes to football success. Ukraine is ranked higher than Poland, which makes their ranking of fifty second lowest in the tournament field. As part of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine has enjoyed some football success, but as an independent situation the situation has been much bleaker; Ukraine’s eighth place finish in the 2006 World Cup is its only qualification for the Euro or World Cup events.
When it comes to the Ukrainian squad, one player to watch in particular is striker Andriy Shevchenko. This will most likely be the final hurrah on the international stage for the 35-year-old Shevchenko, who for all intents and purposes has been the face of Ukrainian football for years. Shevchenko has amassed 46 goals in 105 appearances for his nation, and was the recipient of the 2004 Ballon d’Or, an award given to the best footballer in Europe.
The seventeenth ranked Swedes are a powerhouse when it comes to Nordic football, but that hasn’t translated to general European success. They took fourth at the Euros they hosted in 1992, and have pulled in a second place two third places finishes in the World Cup, but no outright victories. Sweden’s performance has improved under new coach Erik Hamrén, and in the qualifying round they managed to put an end to the Netherlands’ seventeen-game winning streak.
Still, Sweden is a team whose success is tied with the play of their star player, Zlatan Imbrahimovic. Imbrahimovic is one of the best players in the world, period. Unfortunately, without stellar performances from him, the Swedes are in dire straits.
It’s hard to believe that France was the 2006 World Cup runner-up given their recent form. Some familiar faces from that era still remain on the sixteenth ranked team, but it is going to be a serious battle for the The Blues to make up for the 2010 South Africa fiasco.
France may not be in the best shape right now, but the team is rife with young talent. Midfielder Samir Nasri is only 24, and already a full-fledged star on the world stage. Karim Benzema is also 24 and if he continues attacking the way he has for Real Madrid, expect some exciting playmaking. Once players like these are supplemented with young talent, France could experience a revival in fortunes. For now, it’s a transition-period team whose fortunes rest on managing to find a groove and stay in it.
I personally think that no nation prides itself on football quite the way England does. After all, this is the only squad in the Euros with an entirely homebred squad. However, pride and ability do not always match up, and England has consistently underperformed while holding on to the glory of the George Best led 1966 World Cup run.
Midfielder Steven Gerrard has stated that Chelsea’s Champions League success could translate to a better performance for England throughout this tournament. Watch for Andy Carroll, the most expensive British signing in club history. He hasn’t lived up to the hype for Liverpool, but has a lot to prove as he fills in for the suspended Wayne Rooney.
Did I miss anything in my group previews? Do you disagree with anything? Comment below and keep checking in for further Euro 2012 blog posts.
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group C
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group B
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group A
- Ready for Kick Off? A Brief Introduction to the 2012 Euro
- Kerching Launches Euro 2012 Affiliate Sweepstakes