Monday, 28 May 2012

UFEA EURO'S 2012 GROUP D: Allo Allo, what's going on here then?

  FRANCE
By Carlos Zimmermann
A little look


After last year's debacle with the FFF and Laurent Blanc being involved with an inequality scandal, it seems it's back to the same old, same old. France will want to make up for the shambles that was World Cup 2010 and Euro 2008, in which both times the team was sent home before the knock-out stages. Maybe last years controversy will be the worst it gets for this hugely talented bunch of individuals, as they seem united under Blanc, which wasn't the case under Domenech who was undermined at every turn (although apparently he picked teams based on star signs).
France have had some impressive results, having not lost in eighteen matches leading up to the Euro's, most notably beating Germany 2-1, if they can pull out performances like this at the tournament then they will be a good bet to go all the way. 
Head Honcho: Laurent Blanc
Affectionately known as 'the teacher' during his playing days due to his knowledge of the game, Laurent Blanc has had a short but successful managerial career with Bordeaux, winning the Ligue 1 title, the Coupe de la Ligue and the Super cup in his three year stay before being awarded the France job. With his contract up in July, Blanc enters this tournament not knowing where his future may lie, as the FFF are weary about entering into a long term deal, and have refused to offer Blanc any assurances as to his position, wanting to see out the tournament before deciding on whether or not to offer him a new contract. The FFF are probably understandably weary after our very own Capello contract issues, although this seems a sticking point for Blanc who has seen this as a lack of faith and will most likely be managing one of Europe's big league teams come the new season. 
Danger Man: Karim Benzema
Having won four league titles in France with Lyon, Benzema has added the Spanish league title after an impressive season with Real Madrid, scoring 37 goals and getting 9 assists for club and country. Given all the stars at Madrid, Benzema's contribution can go a little under-appreciated outside of Madrid, but he has proven to be a big game player, scoring in three different games against Barcelona this year alone. He is a versatile player who has vision, lots of technique, can beat a man, and has a great eye for goal, a player that scores the tap in's that win you games as well as the spectacular goals that light them up, he has everything. 
One to watch: Hatem Ben Arfa
With several exciting new additions to the squad such as Yann M'Vila, Mapou Yanga-M’Biwa and  Yohan Cabaye the most exciting has to be Hatem Ben Arfa. After showing early promise, winning the best player award at the under 17's world cup with France in a team that contained Benzema and Samir Nasri, his career seemed to stall somewhat (although he has won 5 league titles  with Lyon and Marseille), always in and out of the team because of his attitude. His move to Newcastle has seemed to rejuvenate him, and despite breaking his leg not long after his début, he has returned sharper and more focused then ever. He is a major reason why Cisse and Newcastle  have scored so many goals this season, and has contributed some wonderful goals himself. With exquisite passing and the ability to beat several players at once, this mercurial talent has all the attributes to light up this tournament and become the name on everyone's lips.

Euro 2012 Schedule

France will play two more games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Serbia on the 31th of May, next will be Estonia on the 4th of June.


Here are their group games:


Monday 11th of June France v England  17:00 Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)


Friday 15th of June France v Ukraine 17:00  Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)


Monday 19th of June France v Sweden 19:45 NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev)

Betting Odds:
12/1

                                                   ENGLAND
A little look


England finished top of their group without losing a single game, conceding only five goals and drawing three. England still struggle to create chances, a situation that is in need of more than a managerial change. Even though you don't want to drop points in the 1st game against France, it's the second against Sweden that holds the key to the next round, as well as Rooney's return, and its how Hodgson reshapes the team around him that could be key to England's chances. Cahill may get the nod at centre-back, and there is nothing like the experience of playing together regularly, putting Cahill alongside Cole and Terry, gives you three of Chelsea's back line, and they will know each other's game well. Barry has dropped  out through, injury so Jagielka has joined the squad. We may see jagielka pair up with his old team mate Lescott, although this is unlikely. This England team certainly won't be a knock-out, but getting to at least that stage will be a positive.


Head Honcho: Roy Hodgson


Roy has not had long to drill his team, however he will be pushing them hard to know instinctively where to be. He knows the Swedish game well, and this can only help them. Roy may not trust Walcott and Young together defensively on the wings and choose at least one of Downing or Milner, as the defensive side of the game is always on his mind.

Danger Man: Ashley Young 

I am always surprised when I see a set play and Young is not taking it. For a player so deadly in these situations, he seems to pander to those around him when he should stand up and be counted. When the ball is in motion, Ashley has been in the mood scoring 4 goals in just under 500 minutes, he looks sharp and seems a natural fit to international football. His unpredictability enables him to go inside or outside the fall-back, as well being comfortable in central areas, making him a menace to the opposing defenders. He's very light on his feet and does make a meal of things, though while wearing the white of England I think the English Media and fans double standards may come into play.


One to watch: Wayne Rooney
The much-needed extended rest for Wayne Rooney, after a long season with no winter break, will do him the world of good. He has been at his most prolific this season, grabbing himself 27 goals in the league; one more than his previous best, although he did play two more games. The dilemma with Rooney is that he can score goals but I believe his own enthusiasm to want to control the game makes him go looking for the ball, and he tries too hard to be the man to make the difference. Rooney is a player who can do most things really well, but not excellently. His style is better suited when he's not the best player in the team, as when he is he very much tries to win the game on his own, as he does for England. At only 26, he has had the expectations of the nation on his young shoulders for the last eight years. Some people thought that we shouldn't take our best player as he is banned for the first two games, some stating his poor discipline as their reason. Looking at his disciplinary record for England, he has only received 2 yellow cards in 29 outings, as well as only one yellow card for Manchester United all season, which is not bad at all, and shows a rapidly maturing player. Rooney could well do a Paolo Rosi or Jeff Hurst who played no part, or at least very little, until the business end of the competition, then with fresh enthusiasm they showed why they were in the squad and gave the whole nation a lift at the right time. This may be another case of good things come to those who wait. 
Euro 2012 Schedule

England  will play one more game before the competition kicks off,  against Belgium  on the 2nd of June.

Here are their group games:

Monday 11th of June England v France 17:00 Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)

Friday 15th Of June 20:00 Sweden v England NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev) 

Tuesday 19th  of June England v Ukraine 19:45  Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)

Betting Odds:
12/1 

                                        SWEDEN
A little look

Sweden came second in their  group and in their last game in qualifying they got what they wanted (and most of all, needed) with a 3-2 victory over Holland to glide them into the Euro's as the best runner up. This meant that they didn't have to enter the lottery of the play-off's. Sweden are a little different to years gone by, they focus more on attack then they have done in the past (scoring 31 goals in qualifying only bettered by Germany and  Holland)  this might be down to them not going to the World cup 2010. Knowing a winning start against the Ukraine could help them greatly in reaching the the knock-out stages. Their previous best showing in this competition is the semi. Larsson and Kallstrom have 6 and 7 assists respectively and will need to feed the hungry Zlatan if they want to match their predecessors but  I feel it may be out of their reach this time around, even with  the talent that they possess.      

Head Honcho: Erik Hamren

Erik is one of the lads and really gets along with his players. Even so, Erik will not abide fools and will want to do well. I can't see there being screams of "Sack him!" if they don't get out of the group however disappointed the Swedes may be. Erik has had a lot of success in Scandinavia winning the Svenska Cupen three times between '96 and '00, then marching on to Aalborg winning the Superliga and reaching the Champions League. In his last stint as club manager before he took the reigns of Sweden on a full-time basis he was with Rosenburg where he lead them to the Eliteserien (league title) in '09.    


Danger Man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic


An Italian journalist at the beginning of the season was asked to describe what he thought of Serie A, and he responded: 'Serie A is a great battle with some fierce competitors fighting out for the league, and then they decide to give the title to Ibrahimovic'. Such is his talent and the importance of him to the team, Ibra had won league title's seven years running with 4 different clubs in 3 different leagues, 11 in total. That was until this year when Juventus won the Scudetto, ending Ibrahimovic's amazing haul of titles, although they had to go unbeaten all season and still only pipped Ibra's Milan to the title by four points. Ibrahimovic may have mixed feelings about this season as he scored 28 goals, a personal career high for a single league season. A lot of people in England understate Ibrahimovic's undoubted talent, but I'm sure the England team will not underestimate this strong but classy threat when they face Sweden in the group stages.
One to watch: Seb Larsson
Seb Larsson has just completed his most prolific year in front of goal having scored 7, but its not his finishing that should be commended. His delivery to team mates from open play is up there with the best, but it is his exceptional ability when it comes to dead-ball situations that are a thing of beauty, making him a valuable member with both Sunderland and Sweden. It is with his ferocious yet elegant free kicks that makes Larsson a constant threat whether he is shooting straight at goal or crossing to a team mate. Sweden's success in the tight games they inevitably face may well rest on Larsson finding Zlatan Ibrahimavic, one of the best in the world at bringing down high balls and fashioning a shooting chance, in dangerous positions. In a game of fine margins a set piece may be the difference between going through and going home, and there is only a few in the world who you would trust to make a difference with a set piece in the dying moments of a game, Seb Larsson is one of those.
Euro 2012 Schedule

Sweden will play two more games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Iceland on the 30th of May, next will be Serbia on the 5th of June.

Here are their group games:

Monday 11th of June 19:45 Sweden v Ukraine  NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev) 

Friday 15th Of June 19:45 Sweden v England NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev) 

Tuesday 19th of June 19:45 Sweden v France NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev) 

Betting Odds
66/1

                                                                UKRAINE

A little look


The co-hosts have had set back after set back in their national camp, and in the preparations to host the European Championship they, like Poland, only had friendlies to prepare for their first ever swing at this major competition. Their route to the Euros was painful, but nothing  like the reception the "Ultras", and other small hate groups, will try and give to the influx of good people watching their nation play. After being awarded the Euro's, they played seven of the teams participating in this years tournament, losing three and drawing three. Ukraine played Sweden twice in friendlies, winning once on penalties and losing the other. I feel this could be one team who will be making a dash for the exit with nothing in hand.
Head Honcho: Oleh Blokhin
Blokhin, 59, has only ever taken control of the national team. His first attempt to grab the bull by the horns was in October 2003 to November 2007. This time around, en route to the Euro's, Ukraine have had a few managers come in then out. Blokhin won his first game, 2-0 against Uzbekistan, but then fell from grace as he lost the next game 4-1 to France, and the next three after that. Blokhin and Ukraine's  fortunes have fared slightly better after that run: winning four out of five games and drawing one against a semi-strong German side. 
Danger Man: Andriy Shevchenko
This will be Shevchenko's last throw of the dice at the big time. He will be a proud man walking out with the national side in his homeland and will want to enjoy every minute of it, and he should. At 35 years old, Shevchenko doesn't normally play a whole game any more, but will beg his coach to leave him on. It's hard to talk about his goal record as being dangerous. This year for Dynamo Kyiv he has only hit the back of the net 6 times in 16 games, and has just one goal in his last five outings in the colours of the national team.  
One to watch: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
Tymoshchuck, 33, is a class act which has been noted in his homeland, Ukrainians voting him their best ever player at the end of 2011, along with being Ukraine's most capped player. Tymoshchuck will sit in front of his defence looking after them, much like a guard dog. He is tenacious but calculated, only receiving ten yellows in his last 76 internationals, which is incredible for someone who does this job in the centre of the park. He may have too much ground to cover for his team mates this time, but be assured, he won't mind, going all out to help his team mates try and pick up some points.
Euro 2012 Schedule
Ukraine  will play two more games before the competition kicks off, the first against  Austria  on the 1st  of June, next will be Turkey on the 5th of June.

Here are their group games:

Monday 11th of June 19:45 Ukraine v Sweden  NSK Olimpijs'kji (Kiev) 

Friday 15th of June Ukraine v France 19:45  Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)

Tuesday 19th  of June Ukraine v England 19:45  Donbass  (Arena Donets'k)

Betting Odds:
50/1

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