France v England - Group D: UEFA EURO 2012

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.

AEK Athens beats Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]

Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.

Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.

Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.

PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.

PSG drops points against Toulouse days after massive UCL win

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14:  Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]

PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.

[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]

Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.

PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.

Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”

Leipzig beats ‘Gladbach 2-1, cuts Bayern’s Bundesliga lead

Leipzig's scorer Willi Orban, center, and his teammates celebrate their side's 2nd goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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BERLIN (AP) Leipzig held on for a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach to cut Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga to five points on Sunday.

[ MORE: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara wins second Serie A match ]

Emil Forsberg scored one and set up another for the promoted side to end its two-game losing streak and stay on course for Champions League qualification with its 14th win of the season.

[ MORE: Bielsa makes Ligue 1 return, joins Lille as new manager ]

`Gladbach `keeper Yann Sommer pulled off a brilliant fingertip save to deny Marcel Sabitzer early on, but he was powerless to stop Forsberg from breaking the deadlock after half an hour played.

Sabitzer and Timo Werner played their way through the static `Gladbach defense and Werner laid the ball off for the Sweden midfielder to fire inside the bottom left corner.

The home side was given a lifeline when Marvin Compper brought down Lars Stindl and referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot, but Peter Gulacsi saved Thorgan Hazard‘s penalty before the break.

More poor defending allowed Werner grab the second 10 minutes after the break, firing inside the far post after Forsberg played him through.

Jannik Vestergaard pulled one back with a powerful header from a corner to set up an exciting finale. However, six minutes of injury time were not enough for an equalizer.

Leipzig had kicked off to a chorus of whistles from the home fans, who then mostly stayed silent till the 19th minute in protest against the visiting side. Huge banners in the north stand said “Traditional club since 1900” – an apparent protest against Leipzig, founded in 2009 when Austrian energy-drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz rebranded a fifth-tier team with his company’s livery before financing its steady promotion through the lower leagues.

COLOGNE 1, SCHALKE 1

Cologne stopped Schalke’s progress but the point was enough for the visiting side to overtake `Gladbach on goal difference in 10th.

Alessandro Schoepf got the visitors off to a flying start in the second minute with the help of the left post, and Leon Goretzka hit the post after half an hour with the home side still struggling to get into the game.

But Anthony Modeste equalized before the break with a fine strike inside the far post, and might even have scored again just minutes later, when his hesitation allowed Benedikt Hoewedes get back and clear.

Guido Burgstaller came closest to a winner for Schalke in the second half, his shot just wide of the far post after beating the goalkeeper.