England Training and Press Conference - Group D: UEFA EURO 2012

As it happened, Euro 2012: England holds France, Shevchenko lifts Ukraine

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Four teams have yet to play their first games of Euro 2012, but that changes today when Group D finally takes the field. I say finally because our England lean has kept the Three Lions on our radars throughout the weekend. Now, England’s openers with France is finally here.

That game kicks off at noon Eastern, with co-hosts Ukraine opening against Sweden in Kiev at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. For most, seeing those teams on the schedule will mean one thing: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is taking center stage. The Milan icon will be orchestrating Sweden’s attack opposite a former Milan icon, Andriy Shevchenko.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Monday’s action:

 



(All times Eastern)

1640 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden, Final – And Ukraine goes top of Group D with a fairytale opening, their 35-year-old captain scoring twice as the co-hosts down Sweden.

1638 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Another great chance for Sweden as a ball is chipped into the box for Mellberg, who volleys it meekly over.

1635 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Elmander misses a golden chance to equalizer. Ibrahimovic chips a ball over the defense the bounces nicely 10 yards out. Elmander and Wilhemsson both are coming onto it, but Elmander takes it and blasts it wide or the left post. That should have been Sweden’s second.

1625 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Sweden has used their three subs, with Wilhelmsson and Elmander coming on some time ago (for Rosenberg and Larsson). They’re providing Sweden with a little boost over this last period of the game, though Ukraine’s now going to respond. Andriy Shevchenko’s off Artem Milevskiy’s on.

1620 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Somebody should tell the Swede they need a goal. Since Ukraine took the lead, this match has fallen flat. Ukraine’s got the score they want, and Sweden doesn’t seem willing to take it from them. There’s 15 minutes left, but unless Sweden wakes up, they’re going to pss pretty …

Just as I type, a chip to Ibra is flicked to Elmander, who knocks is back to Ibra for a shot whose thump rings through the arena. Pyatov saves.

1608 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Anders Svensson’s come on for Ola Toivonen, who did nothing on the left today. At the same time, that takes a goal scoring option off. Svensson will slot along side Kim Kallstrom. Elm goes out left.

1606 – Ukraine 2-1 Sweden – Shevchenko again! Nazarenko whips in a near post corner – pretty typical stuff – and Shevchenko only has to burst from the middle of the six to lose Ibrahimovic, get to the ball, and hammer it home.

1600 – Ukraine 1-1 Sweden – Shevchenko! The old man get his goal! In his country’s opening game on home soil. Oleh Gusev carries the ball into attack, draws the left back and lays it off for Andriy Yarmolenko. He moves the ball onto his left, chips to the edge of the six where Shevchenko beats Olof Mellberg, heading the ball into the right of net. It’s all even.

1557 – Ukraine 0-1 Sweden – Ibrahimovic has his team in front. Sweden breaks through their right as a Ukraine player lies on the ground. Nobody slows up, and a cross goes far post. Andriy Yarmolenko’s clearing header clears nothing, allowed Kim Kallstrom to find Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the edge of the six for a redirected opener.

1551 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – We’re back, Ukraine kick off and going right to left.

1537 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – The half closes with Ukraine having had the better of the last 15 minutes, using their width to start shifting around a decently organized but still vulnerable Sweden defense. Ibrahimovic may not have touched the ball in the last 10 minutes, but Sweden gets to half time.

1527 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Ibrahimovic has gone off the post. A cross from Mikael Lustig finds Ibra, having beaten Taras Mikhalik. From the left, Ibra puts it back across goal, hitting the post.

The announcer I’m listening to uses this as an example of Ibra’s failings. Yes, because nobody ever puts a header off a post.

1524 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – The game has opened up in the last coulpe of seconds. Andrei Voronin put a swerving shot on Andreas Isaksson from 23 yards. Sweden push back the other direction before Yevhhen Konoplyanka has a crack. A turnover by Sweden leaves to a Andriy Shevchenko chance, with the rebound calling for Andriy Yarmolenko, whose shot is blocked out for a corner. Ukraine looking very dangerous now that they’re playing a little more direct, pulling the trigger on some shots from distance.

1520 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – As UEFA just reminded us, we’re still without a shot on target 33 minutes into this match.

1515 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Sweden continues to being Zlatan Ibrahimovic into the game, perhaps deferring to him too much. On one counterattack Seb Larsson had a chance to hit Markus Rosenberg wide left yet decided to roll a safe ball to Ibra. Ukraine’s most threatening moments have come trying to play passes over Sweden’s line for Andriy Shevchenko and Andrei Vorinin.

1504 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – And just as I say that, Ibrahimovic makes his first mark on the match. He does left of the area to claim a ball, easily gets away from Mikhalik and puts a dangerous ball into the six. Pyatov coe to punch but whiffs a bit. Seb Larsson’s there but his back’s to goal. He can’t turn quickly enough.

1503 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – Fifteen minutes in, and there’s not much to tell. Neither team has meaningfully tested the other, though Ukraine seems the lost likely to do so.

1447 – Ukraine 0-0 Sweden – We’re off, and this is going to be confusing. Ukraine’s wearing yellow.

1443 – Anthems are being played. Ukraine is in full voice supporting their team. Kickoff’s moments away.

1429 – Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine finish the day’s action. Here are the lineups:

Sweden: Isaksson, Lustig, Mellberg, Granqvist, M. Olsson, Elm, Larsson, Källström, Ibrahimović, Toivonen, Rosenberg SUBS: Wiland, Hansson, J. Olsson, Antonsson, Safari, Svensson, Wernbloom, Holmén, Bajrami, Wilhelmsson, Elmander, Hysén.

Ukraine: Pyatov, Selin, Khacheridi, Mikhalik, Tymoshchuk, Gusev, Yarmolenko, Nazarenko, Konoplyanka, Shevchenko, Voronin SUBS: Koval, Goryainov, Kucher, Shevchuk, Rakitskiy, Butko, Garmash, Aliyev, Rotan, Milevskiy, Seleznyov, Dević.

Erik Hamrén goes with the defense he used in the last friendly, having shaken up his four. Markus Rosenberg gets the start up top in place of Johan Elmander.

For Ukraine, Andriy Shevchenko starts along with Andrei Voronin, two names English Premier League fans will be very familiar with. Like every other team in the tournament, Ukraine’s biggest questions are at the back.

1427 – Here’s our post match report as well as Steve’s thoughts on the Nasri goal discussion.

1350 – France 1-1 England, Final – England’s defending with nine at the end, and a long shot from Karim Benzema (handled by Hart) ends the match. A Wayne Rooney-less England have to be happy with the result, though France won’t be too disappointed, either.

When you look back on the game and examine the numbers, you wonder if France won’t regret not getting three. England didn’t have a lot of answers for Samir Naris and Franck Ribery, but France never really played with any urgency. Ultimately, they had a 61-39 possession advantage, outshot England 19-3 (15-1 shots on target), but were rightly drawn.

1347 – France 1-1 England – Theo Walcott is coming on. Danny Welbeck is coming off.

1342 – France 1-1 England – After forcing another corner, Frnace makes two chances. Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin are on. Yoann Cabaye and Florent Malouda are off. Something that’s happened over the last five minutes: Franck Ribery is coming in from the left more. For most of the match, it’s been Nasri playing behind Benzema in the attacking phase, but he seems to be staying right a little more. Ribery, who still has plenty of energy, just forced a corner by running at Joleon Lescott.

1336 – France 1-1 England – Hodgson makes his first change, bringing on Jordan Henderson for Scott Parker. England fans may not like that, but the central midfield was looking ragged for England. Granted, Gerrard seems to be the player having the most trouble maintaining his positioning, but there was some speculation Parker’s Achilles isn’t 100 percent. Perhaps that’s motivated the move.

France has just forced two corners, with Yoann Cabaye nearly putting a hard shot on goal (where it not for a partial block from Welbeck). England hasn’t found that second win, they’re relying more on Oxlade-Chamberlain to get them into attack (and playing some long balls), and you can’t help but wonder whether a draw is looking pretty good.

But now Ox is also out. Jermaine Defoe is on.

1325 – France 1-1 England – Another offside call against England. Augmenting the previous update, Gerrard and Parket, in particular, seem to be fading.

1321 – France 1-1 England – England’s starting to look a little tired. France is holding a lot of the possession (after England’s early second half spell), and the effort getting back into the defensive shape isn’t the same for England. When France runs at people (be it Ribery, Evra, Nasri), the defense seems a step slower reacting. Benzema just put a thumping shot on Hart (saved), but we’ll have to see where this is going. Perhaps they just need a second wind.

1310 – France 1-1 England – >England has their first prolonged spell of possession, holding the ball for well over a minute before a long ball from Lescott’s met with a whistle. Ashley Young is offside for the third time tonight.

1402 – France 1-1 England – Whistle blows. No changes for either side.

1302 – France 1-1 England, Halftime – Teams are coming back out. Stats: Possession: France 58-42; Shots: France 8-2; Shots on goal: France 6-1.

1247 – France 1-1 England, Halftime – Intermission, and the score is fair, even if the numbers say France controlled the period. By halftime, France was certainly on the front foot, but this is the type of game England would have been happy with before the opening whistle. Roy Hodgson needs to find one other way to get his team into attack if three points is a possibility, but for now, England’s given a good account of themselves.

1240 – France 1-1 England – England’s midfield is too deep and can’t get out to contest a Samir Nasri shot from 20 yards out. As Steven Gerrard is trying, he may have screened Joe Hart, because this isn’t a shot that normally gets past the Manchester City `keeper. Near post, hard but savable shot, it’s in the back of the net. Nasri, one of France’s best players thus far, has equalized.

1236 – France 0-1 England – France nearly pulls it back. Dead ball on their right flank sees Nasri whip a cross to just short of the penalty sopt. Alou Diarra heads a powerful shot on goal, but Joe Hart blocks it up. It falls to Diarra who, rushed, puts it wide. England stays in front.

1231 – France 0-1 England – Steve Gerrard, from a dead ball, puts a ball in from the right to the middle fo the six, and Joleon Lescott puts it home. It’s 1-0.

A number of France errors led to a goal that was very preventable. Patrice Evra’s cheap foul gave up the kick. Lescott was able to separate himself too easily from Alou Diarra, who shouldn’t have had the assignment of marking Lescott. The ball was too close to goal not to be caught – the cross floated enough for Lloris to come get it. All of those errors combined to give England the lead.

1223 – France 0-0 England – Danny Welbeck is down, getting some treatment. He had an ankle problem at the beginning of camp, but he seems fine now. The match has settled in as you’ expect it. England’s letting France come onto them (particularly in the middle), and the pressure on France comes in those first moments of transition. We saw Steven Gerrard hit a nice long ball for Young in the 14th minute. That was encouraging for England. France … England’s going to let them shoot from 22-24 yards all day. Beyond that, Nasri seems like he’ll have to create something.

1216 – France 0-0 England – England just generated their first chance of the match, and James Milner should have scored. Ashley Young has time on the ball 30 yards out, six yards from the defense. Milner makes a run in from the right, and Patrice Evra never breaks out of a trot. A through ball puts Milner in, Hugo Lloris takes a bad angle, and one touch from the England winger leaves him with an empty net. His legs fail him, though, and he’s left lunging for a ball he puts into the outside of the side netting. Ruined chance.

1211 – France 0-0 England – France has forced a couple of corner kicks, and thanks to a nice diagonal pass from Yoann Cabaye, have generated the one moment of danger. France looks to be the better side thus far and are holding much more of the ball. Bringing Samir Nasri in from the right, they have a lot of attackers toward the center and left, creating a numbers problem for England.

1201 – Countdown is done and they’ve kicked off in a Donetsk that’s said to be very warm. England’s moving from right to left.

1155 – Teams are finally walking out on the field in Donetsk in that beautiful new stadium. England’s in all whit. France wears blue. Next update will be at kickoff.

1124 – Your lineups for England-France:

England: Hart, Johnson, Cole, Terry, Lescott, Gerrard, Young, Milner, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck SUBS: Green, Butland, Baines, Jones, Jagielka, Walcott, Henderson, Downing, Carroll, Defoe.

France: Lloris, Debuchy, Evra, Rami, Mexès, Cabaye, Ribéry, Nasri, Malouda, Diarra, Benzema SUBS: Mandanda, Carrasso, Réveillère, Koscielny, Clichy, Valbuena, Matuidi, Ménez, M’Vila, Martin, Ben Arfa, Giroud.

Big news? As Steve told you about earlier, Ox starts for England. It’s not entirely unpredictable given he started against Belgium. It just runs counter to our image of Roy Hodgson.

For France, no surprises.

My picks for today: 2-1 for France, though I don’t feel great about that one, and Sweden by the same score.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Too early for Guardiola to concede Premier League title?

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Pep Guardiola suffered his worst-ever league defeat as a manager on Sunday as Manchester City were hammered 4-0 at Everton in the Premier League.

Post-game he was understandably glum.

[ MORE: Klopp slams United ]

Guardiola even appeared to concede the Premier League title, as the preseason favorites for the crown have now fallen 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go.

When asked if City’s title hopes were over after a fifth defeat of the season, the Spaniard’s answer was emphatic.

“Yes. Ten is a lot of points,” Guardiola said. “The second one [Tottenham] is three points. We have to see. I spoke to my players the last three weeks or a month, forget about the table. Focus on the next game and try to do our best to win the games and after that at the end of the season we are going to evaluate how our level and performance was — how was the coach, how was the players and after we are going to decide.”

It seems like Guardiola has already decided that the title race is over for City, but has he thrown in the towel too early?

With just five points separating second-place Tottenham with sixth-place Manchester United, it appears City’s primary focus will now be to finish in the top four as a mammoth battle ensues in the final third of the season.

Yet, we have seen some miraculous comebacks from teams in the past to win the title. These stats could give Pep hope.

In the 1997-98 season, Arsenal were 12 points behind United after 21 games of the season (United had played a game more) but roared back to win the PL by one point. And of course, City’s two PL crowns came courtesy of stunning late surges in the season with thanks to Sergio Aguero’s magic on the final day in 2011-12 and then Liverpool’s collapse in the closing weeks of 2013-14.

Pep, don’t lost the faith. It can be done.

However, if City lose to Tottenham next weekend and Chelsea extend their lead over Pep’s boys to 13 points by beating Hull City, it is curtains.

Such is the dominance of the big boys this season, City pretty much have to go unbeaten for the rest of the season to have a shot at winning the PL. Given their recent defensive displays that seems unlikely.

We all know Pep is an idealist when it comes to how he wants his team to play but now we are seeing he is a realist too.

Conte urges players “money is not everything” amid Costa rumors

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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While new reports are suggesting that China will have to curb its massive spending, Antonio Conte has urged his players that they don’t have to be tempted by the Chinese Super League.

[ MORE: United, Liverpool finish level after late Ibrahimovic equalizer ]

Chelsea currently sits atop the Premier League — seven points clear of Tottenham and Liverpool — but the club has recently been at the center of controversy as star striker Diego Costa has been linked with a move away from the club.

[ MORE: CSL set to limit number of foreign players per team ]

Costa missed his side’s 3-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday after several outlets reported a rift between the Spaniard and Conte.

The Chelsea manager told reporters following the match that Costa wasn’t available due to a back injury he suffered in training, but there has been continued speculation that the 28-year-old could head to China.

Conte has made it clear to his squad though that the quality of competition in England supersedes the money offered abroad.

“The money is not everything,” Conte told reporters. “When you play for a great team like Chelsea, you must be pleased.

“I think we are a great club and it is a great honour to play for Chelsea. For this reason I don’t see [China] as a threat for my players.

The Blues have lost a number of high-profile players over recent seasons to the high spending of Chinese football, including Brazilian duo Oscar and Ramires, as well as John Obi Mikel.

Oscar departed Chelsea this month to join Shanghai SIPG for a reported $72 million.

“I have to look at the past,” Conte said. “Oscar played with us, had a good offer from China and he went.

“But this league is really competitive and every player wants to come and play in this league.

“This league is the first in the world because of a lot of positive things, so I don’t think these offers from China are a threat for our league.”

Report: Ian Harkes expected to sign with DC United

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D.C. United didn’t have a top 10 selection in the MLS SuperDraft, but the club is likely to end up with one of the most talented collegiate players in the game.

[ MORE: Robinson, Ebobisse headline latest U.S. U-20 roster ]

According to the Washington Post, D.C. United is expected to sign Wake Forest attacker Ian Harkes to a multi-year contract.

[ MORE: Galaxy keeper Rowe replaces Frei with USMNT ]

Harkes, 21, came up through D.C.’s academy system before playing all four years for the Demon Deacons. The midfielder has gained significant notoriety over his college career, which concluded with Hermann Trophy honors following his senior senior.

As a former member of the D.C. academy, Harkes didn’t have to declare for the SuperDraft and is expected to sign a Homegrown contract with D.C. United in the coming days.

Harkes has also been considering his options abroad, which included second-division sides in England, where he was born. Ian is the son of former U.S. Men’s National Team star John Harkes, who played both in the United States and England over his professional career.

Bayern Munich signs Suele and Rudy from Hoffenheim

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 15:  Sebastian Rudy of Germany controls the ball during the International Friendly Match between Italy and Germany at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium on November 15, 2016 in Milan, .  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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MUNICH (AP) German champion Bayern Munich has signed center half Niklas Suele and central midfielder Sebastian Rudy from Hoffenheim, with both players due to complete the season with their current club before joining on July 1.

[ MORE: Ibrahimovic rescues draw for United against Liverpool ]

Bayern said Sunday on its website that Rudy – who is out of contract in the summer – has signed a three-year deal until 2020 while Suele has agreed a five-year deal until June 2022.

[ MORE: Morata to Chelsea? Dybala staying put? ]

“Signing two Germany internationals is an investment in FC Bayern’s future,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “Sebastian Rudy joins us on a free transfer. In the case of Niklas Suele we have reached a fair and serious agreement with Hoffenheim.”

The 26-year-old Rudy has played 177 league games for Hoffenheim since joining from Stuttgart in 2010, while the 21-year-old Suele is a homegrown talent and has made 90 league appearances with the club.

“In terms of it being a farewell I feel a little wistful,” Suele said on Bayern’s website, adding that the move gives him the chance of “maturing further with one of the best teams in the world.”

Suele’s signing appears to be linked to the form of long-serving Bayern defender Holger Badstuber, who has been sent on loan to Schalke to get more game time.

The long-serving center-back has struggled with injuries in recent years and is not in Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, having played only three games this season, starting just once.