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.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

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The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.