Euro 2012 Group D PreviewIn our final Euro 2012 preview piece, we analyse a tough looking Group D, assessing the chances of England, France, Sweden and Euro 2012 Co-Hosts Ukraine.

Euro 2012 Group D

Euro 2012 Group D Fixture List
(All times listed are UK – British Summer Time)

June 11 – 5pm
France vs England
Donbass Arena, Donetsk

June 11 – 7.45pm
Ukraine vs Sweden
Olympic Stadium, Kiev

June 15 – 5pm
Sweden vs England
Olympic Stadium, Kiev

June 15 – 7.45pm
Ukraine vs France
Donbass Arena, Donetsk

June 19 – 7.45pm
England vs Ukraine
Donbass Arena, Donetsk

June 19 – 7.45pm
Sweden vs France
Olympic Stadium, Kiev

The Teams

To win Euro 2012: 12.00 (bwin)
To win Group A: 2.80 (BoyleSports)
Current FIFA Rank: 7
Best performance: Third (1968, 1996)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 1st, Group H

Coach: TBC
Italian Fabio Capello led England through an unbeaten Euro 2012 Qualification campaign, but sensationally quit in February 2012 after a row with the English Football Association over the removal of John Terry as England captain. Stuart Pearce has been installed as Caretaker Manager and Harry Redknapp has been touted as a probably future England coach, but as yet, no announcement has been made, which is far from ideal preparation for a European Championships campaign.

Key Player: Joe Hart
Casting an eye over the likely England Euro 2012 squad does not make very good reading for England fans. Rooney’s ridiculous suspension leaves England woefully short up front for the opening two matches, a serious lack of creativity in midfield has only been worsened by Jack Wilshere’s latest setback and so if England are to have any chance of Euro 2012 joy, it’s going to have to come from a solid platform defensively, in which Manchester City’s Joe Hart will play a pivotal role. Goalkeeper had been a problem position for England for a long time, but Hart looks to be the answer for the coming decade.

England topped Group G of the Euro 2012 Qualification stage with relative ease, but a petulant foul in the final game ensured that Rooney would serve a suspension of two games. By the time he returns, England could well find themselves eliminated from the European Championships – with no coach, few fit or experienced strikers and a lack of creativity throughout the squad, this could be yet another miserable international tournament for the English. That said, you would still expect England to escape Euro 2012 Group D, as France have problems of their own and the Ukraine squad is nothing like as strong as it once was – but you certainly wouldn’t back them to do so at the current best price of 1.50 (BoyleSports, BetVictor).

To win Euro 2012: 15.00 (BoyleSports, Coral, BetVictor)
To win Group A: 2.88 (Coral)
Current FIFA Rank: 16
Best performance: Winners (1984, 2000)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 1st, Group D

Coach: Laurent Blanc
After a glittering playing career which saw him win the World Cup and European Championships, as well as enjoying major success in England, France and Spain, Laurent Blanc made his coaching debut at Bordeaux, where he spent three seasons. Blanc’s time at Bordeaux proved fruitful, winning the Manager of the Year award in his debut season and leading his side to the Ligue 1 title, winning a Coupe de la Ligue and also setting a new record of eleven consecutive Ligue 1 victories. Blanc took charge of France in July 2010 and qualified automatically for Euro 2012, despite a slow start due to the rebellious squad he inherited.

Key Player: Karim Benzema
Under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, Benzema has really moved up a gear, scoring 55 times in 93 appearances for Mourinho’s Real Madrid (compared with his return of 9 from 33 prior to Mourinho’s tenure). This form saw Laurent Blanc recall Benzema from the international wilderness and his faith was repayed with three goals during the Euro 2012 Qualification campaign, plus crucial goals in friendly wins against Brazil and England.

This is a France squad that appears to lack the big name, match winning, star players of the past and their price to win Euro 2012 Group D seems very short indeed. There are plenty of young and inexperienced players amongst the current French squad and Laurent Blanc will be relying upon the likes of Benzema and Ribery to step up to the plate, but if they don’t – as we’ve seen with French players in past international tournaments – the likes of Sweden and host nation Ukraine will be waiting to pounce.

To win Euro 2012: 81.00 (BetVictor)
To win Group A: 7.50 (BetVictor)
Current FIFA Rank: 17
Best performance: Semi-Final (1992)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 2nd, Group E (Play-Offs)

Coach: Erik Hamrén
In November 2009, then Rosenborg manager Erik Hamrén assumed part time responsibility for the Sweden national team, eventually taking over on a full time basis in 2010 after leaving the Norwegian club. Hamrén had success in Norway, leading Rosenborg to the league title in 2009 and 2010. Prior to that position, Hamrén managed the likes of AIK and Örgryte in his native Sweden, winning the Swedish Cup three times, and also enjoyed a successful spell in Denmark, guiding Aalborg to the league title in 2008.

Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimović
AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimović is currently the top scorer in Serie A, with a strike rate of almost one goal per game – form that he simply has to carry into Euro 2012 if Sweden are to have any chance of escaping Group D. One of the most complete strikers plying their trade in world football today, Ibrahimović has vast experience too, having played for the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus, and having notched 29 goals in 75 international appearances. Ibrahimović will captain Sweden at Euro 2012.

Although Sweden finished second to the Netherlands in Euro 2012 Qualifying, they did manage to beat them 3-2 (coming back from 2-1 down) to show that they will not be pushed around by the top sides in Europea. Zlatan Ibrahimović scored five crucial goals during qualifying, and his goals will continue to prove vital in Sweden’s Euro 2012 exploits. Sweden have some seriously talented individuals amongst their set up, notably Sunderland’s set piece specialist Sebastian Larsson, as well as experienced goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and PSV’s Ola Toivonen; expect the Swedes to cause an upset in Euro 2012 Group D.

To win Euro 2012: 51.00 (Stan James)
To win Group A: 5.50 (BetVictor, Bet365, Ladbrokes)
Current FIFA Rank: 49
Best performance: None (European Championship debut); Winners as Soviet Union (1960)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: Co-Hosts

Coach: Oleh Blokhin
Blokhin broke plenty of records as a player, scoring more goals than anybody else in the USSR football league, winning more caps than any other USSR player and collecting a whole host of individual honours, including the coveted Ballon d’Or. As a coach, he led Greek outfit Olympiakos to two Greek Cups in the early 1990s, before coaching other Greek sides like PAOK and AEK Athens, eventually taking the Ukraine national job in 2003. He led his country to the Quarter-Finals of the 2006 World Cup, where they lost to the eventual winners Italy, before stepping down in 2007 after an unsuccessful Euro 2008 Qualification campaign. After a brief spell managing in Russia, Blokhin was reappointed as the Ukrainian coach in 2011.

Key Player: Andriy Yarmolenko
22 year old Andriy Yarmolenko has already been hailed as the new Andriy Shevchenko and represents the future of Ukrainian football. Capable of playing wide left or as a centre forward, Yarmolenko has already bagged seven goals in his 14 caps for the national side and Euro 2012 could well be the tournament where he because a household name to fans of football outside of the Ukraine.

The likes of Rebrov have now retired, while other Ukrainian stars like Shevchenko and Tymoshchuk have their best days behind them and this is very much a Ukraine team in transition. There are plenty of potential stars in amongst the ranks, such as Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, but Euro 2012 is likely to come too soon for this developing team and it’s easy to see why they are such a big price to escape from Group D.

Euro 2012 Group D is actually much less clear cut than the bookmakers would have you believe. Home side Ukraine could be overpriced to qualify from Euro 2012 Group D at 2.45 (bwin), due to the current injury and suspension problems of England, while Sweden’s best price of 3.00 (BoyleSports, BetVictor, Stan James) to qualify looks positively enormous – if they can get a result in the opening tie against Ukraine, they then face an England side without Rooney, which they will definitely feel that they can get a result from.

France are not the footballing power they were ten years ago, England’s preparation has been horribly disrupted, Ukraine have home advantage and Sweden are being vastly underrated. Expect fireworks in Group D this summer – good luck sorting it out from a betting perspective!