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.

Juninho hoping Willian breaks his Champions League free-kick record

xxxx during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge on October 3, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.
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Willian has scored six goals for Chelsea this season, with all six coming from free kicks.

Four of those have been scored in the Champions League, as the Brazilian has tied the record for the most free-kick goals in a single UCL campaign.

[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]

Willian is tied with his fellow Brazilian Juninho, known as one of the deadliest set-piece takers of all-time, who scored four times for Lyon during the 2005-06 campaign.

When asked about the possibility of his record being broken, Juninho was glad it would be by another Brazilian player, and said Willian will likely surpass him in the coming matches.

It’s good it’s a Brazilian, and from this new generation of good players we have.

It is very gratifying for me because when I scored these four goals, no one said anything.

I’m being remembered by what Willian has achieved, and I think he has everything to beat the record. The Champions League has barely reached half way and Chelsea still have a few more games to play.

Willian has converted 6 of 12 free kicks this season, scoring at an unheard-of 50-percent clip. All of his goals have come from almost the exact same spot on the pitch, about 20-25 yards out at the corner of the box to the keepers right.

[ WATCH: Jamie Vardy scores in record 11th straight Premier League match ]

Chelsea’s next Champions League match is on December 9 at Stamford Bridge against Porto. The Blues need a draw to advance into the knockout round.

West Brom’s Jonas Olsson backs Zlatan for Premier League move

SOLNA, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 14: Sweden 10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic durring a European Qualifier Play-Off between Sweden and Denmark on November 14, 2015 in Solna, Sweden.  (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
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With his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expiring in the summer, where Zlatan will go next is one of the biggest mysteries in football.

Having already played in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France, the Premier League would be a logical next step in Zlatan’s career.

[ MORE: Aguero injury update ]

However, at 34-years-old, Zlatan himself has said it is “too late” for him to play in England, adding more mystery to where he will end up.

Despite what Zlatan says, his teammate on the Sweden national team Jonas Olsson believes the PSG striker is more than capable of playing in the Premier League.

Olsson, who has made nearly 400 appearances for West Bromwich Albion over the past eight seasons, said Zlatan’s elite talent would be fit for England’s top flight.

He’s still at the top of his game. He is the strongest player I have faced. I really hope he comes.

Zlatan on his day is the most talented footballer in the game. He has played under Mourinho before and the only place where he’s not 100% appreciated is in the UK.

I think he can play for any team in this league – he is still that good.

Even at 34, Zlatan has proven he is still one of the best strikers in the world. He recently became Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time leading scorer, and has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four seasons.

[ VIDEO: Jamie Vardy speaks after scoring in 11 straight Premier League matches ]

The Premier League certainly has the money to entice Zlatan, and it is the biggest league in the world that he hasn’t conquered yet. Expect his name to be linked with a move to every major club in Europe for the rest of the year, as we’ll just have to wait until June and see what he decides.

Three questions ahead of Sunday’s MLS Conference Finals

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 22: Goal keeper Adam Kwarasey #12 of Portland Timbers slides in on Michael Barrios #21 of FC Dallas during the second half of the match at Providence Park on November 22, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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There are only two matches remaining before MLS Cup, with both conference’s top seeds in need of a big result.

FC Dallas lost to the Portland Timbers 3-1 in the first leg out West, while the New York Red Bulls fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC in the East.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Leg 2 of the Conference Finals will both be played on Sunday, as we will know the MLS Cup finalists by the end of the night.

WEST: FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 5 p.m. ET
EAST: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC — 7:30 p.m. ET

With each home-side needing to overcome a two-goal deficit, here’s what to look out for in the Conference Finals.

Will FC Dallas capitalize on home-field advantage?

Despite being down 3-1 on aggregate, FC Dallas will be looking forward to Sunday’s second leg. Dallas finished the season 13-2-2 at Toyota Stadium, the best home record in MLS. After scoring a crucial away goal in Portland, a 2-0 win for Dallas will see the side advance to the final. Their 33 goals scored at home was the second-best mark in the Western Conference, as Oscar Pareja’s men will feel confident despite the aggregate.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Fabian Johnson scores twice for Monchengladbach ]

Is Norberto Paparatto ready to replace Liam Ridgewell?

Norberto Paparatto has played just six matches for Portland this season, but it looks like he’ll be starting on Sunday. Liam Ridgewell, who started all 32 matches at center-back, injured his calf in the first leg and manager Caleb Porter said Paparatto will “most likely” be starting, as Ridgewell was seen warming up separately from the rest of the team in training. With FC Dallas in need of goals, Paparatto will have his hands full on defense, especially with the likes of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz bombing forward.

Can Luis Robles keep a clean sheet for RBNY?

The Red Bulls’ Luis Robles was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year this season, and he’s going to need to play like that on Sunday. After losing 2-0 in the first leg without scoring an away goal, New York needs a 2-0 win themselves just to force extra-time. If Columbus scores at Red Bull Arena, New York needs to score four goals to advance. While it will have to be a collective team effort to keep the Crew off the scoresheet, Robles will have to make some big saves in goal to keep his side in it.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona win big in another dominant performance

<> at Camp Nou on November 28, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.
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Catch up on all of Saturday’s La Liga action, as the trio of Messi-Suarez-Neymar continues to terrorize defenses.

Barcelona 4-0 Real Sociedad

In case you haven’t heard, Barcelona is scary good. Coming off of brilliant 4-0 and 6-1 wins over Real Madrid and Roma respectively, the Catalans trounced Real Sociedad at Camp Nou. It was the usual suspects once again, as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar (x2) scored the goals in another masterful performance. The M-S-N trio has accounted for 30 of Barcelona’s 33 goals in La Liga this season.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Espanyol

While the boys from Barcelona may be getting all the headlines, Antoine Griezmann has been having a great season for Atletico Madrid. The French international scored the game-winner in Atletico’s 1-0 win over Espanyol, his tenth in all competitions this season. The good news is that Atleti sit second on the table with a five-point lead over Real Madrid in third, while the bad news is that midfielder Tiago broke his leg in the match.

[ WATCH: Everton, Bournemouth trade late goals in stoppage-time thriller ]

Malaga 2-2 Granada

In a battle of teams fighting for La Liga survival, Granada came from behind to steal a draw at Malaga. The home-side was leading 2-0 until Granada tallied twice in the final ten minutes to take a huge point for the club. Malaga remains glued to the bottom of the table, while Granada is currently out of the drop zone on goal differential.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 0-1 Real Betis
Las Palmas 0-2 Deportivo
Celta Vigo 2-1 Sporting Gijon
Getafe vs. Villarreal (Sunday, 6 a.m. ET)
Eibar vs. Real Madrid (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)
Rayo vs. Athletic Bilbao (Sunday, 12:15 p.m. ET)
Sevilla vs. Valencia (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET)