Shipped from abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward from Group D, after Day 4

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Group D “Power” Rankings

1. France – Les Bleus were drawn by England, but they still look like the group’s best team going forward. Opening match naivete from some inexperienced attackers saw France play Monday’s game out without any urgency. Then again, it was the first match of the tournament. Did they really need urgency?

2. England – One goal (not from open play), a few scares caused by Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck’s speed, and that’s about it going forward. We like to think that’s a symptom of their approach – the Three Lions’ reverence for France. What if it’s not? What if it’s a symptom of their limitations? Or (scarier), what if it’s just a function of their coach’s professional philosophies? If that’s the case, this ranking’s too high.

3. Ukraine – An inspired performance from Andriy Shevchenko vaults them to the top of Group D but not our ratings. Part of that is their competition’s performance, part of that is our doubt that Shevchenko can replicate his production. Of course, the may not need Shevchenko. Somebody else might step up. The problem with Ukraine is identifying who.

4. Sweden – It’s a very disappointing result, as Sweden would have wanted to get three from the team that felt the weakest in the group. Still, based on what we saw today, it’s not so far fetched to see them qualifying. Thankfully, they’re only one point out of second place.

Crystal Ball – What Needs to Happen Next Round

Group D resumes play on Friday:

Ukraine vs. France

Ukraine’s success against Sweden came from exploiting the flanks. It’s an approach that may serve them well against France (or at least force more of a defensive effort from Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri). Don’t expect Anatoliy Tymoshchuk to have as easy a night, though. If Laurent Blanc attacks in the same way he did against England, Tymoshchuk will have to shut down Samir Nasri.

France may have Yann M’Vila back, but the defensive midfielder’s greatest contribution won’t be ball winning. His presence at the base of midfield in the attacking phase should free up Florent Malouda and Yoann Cabaye, who won’t have to drop back to pick up the ball so often.

Sweden vs. England

The approach England used versus France should work against Sweden, but with the Swedes less dominant on the ball, England will get more time outside their own third. It remains to be seen how they handle those chances. If pre-tournament friendlies are any indication, Ashley Young should be their most dangerous player, especially if he’s allowed to get at central defenders Olof Mellberg and Andreas Granqvist.

Sweden would be best served reversing one of the changes that made for Ukraine. Erik Hamrén got aggressive against Ukraine, putting another goal scorer (Ola Toivonen) in the starting XI and moving a wide midfielder (Rasmus Elm) to the middle. The decision forced a holder (Anders Svensson) to the bench. It didn’t work, and against England, Sweden will want Svensson at the base of midfield so Kim Kallstrom’s heavy left foot can run onto opportunities Zlatan Ibrahimovic lays back from a packed England defense.

Where, exactly, Zlatan’s allowed to play is another issue. England’s central midfield played so deep that Ibrahimovic may have to operate from wide or 25 yards to to get the kind of possession he needs in that system. Still Sweden’s biggest goal scoring threat, Hamrén will have to decide what’s more important: Having him on the ball, or having him in position to score. Against England, Ibra may not be able to walk the line.

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

1. Germany (–)
2. Spain (–)
3. Italy (-)
4. Russia (-)
5. France (-) – The result wasn’t ideal, but France showed enough to maintain their spot amongst the tournament’s second-tier favorites.
6. Croatia (-)
7. Denmark (-)
8. England (NR) – They offered just enough of a threat going forward to inch their way onto this list.

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
3. Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
4. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
5. Andres Iniesta, Spain
6. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
7. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
8. Simon Poulsen, Poland
9. Roman Shirokov, Russia
10. Dimitrios Salpingidis, Greece
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.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.