Sorting through the group dynamic, for whatever that’s worth.
1. France – Ukraine was pretty bad. I start with that as a precaution to myself. At the end of this article I’m going to list the tournament favorites, and there’s a little French mime in the side of my head pretending he’s climbing a ladder. I need to remember: There is no ladder. He’s just a mime. That rope can not pull me, Marcel, and no matter what you … wait – what are you doing with the rope? No, Marcel, I didn’t … stop! We all love you!
2. England – Didn’t play that well yet still got full points? It’s one of Roy’s ten commandments. They’re clearly the second best team in the group, and although they have a recent win over Spain, they’re lined up to be fodder for the defending champions.
3. Ukraine – After Tuesday’s drama and the rain delay, they may have just been flat. Ultimately, they’re still in a good position. If, after the draw, you would have offered Ukraine a chance to advance with a win over England, they’d have taken it.
4. Sweden – Two one goal losses, two blown leads, and Sweden’s the second team gone. It’s hard to win a match when only Zlatan and Olof show up.
Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round
Group D resumes play Tuesday, with both matches kicking off simultaneously
France vs. Sweden
It’s difficult to see Sweden putting up much of a fright. Ireland, the tournament’s other eliminated team? You can see them playing for pride against Italy. And I don’t mean that in a patronizing oh, those gritty, lyrical Irish kind of way. Ireland’s team ethos hints they’re more likely to play hard than a Sweden team that’s lacked cohesion.
Sweden seems good on set pieces, so they could look at what England did Tuesday and try to improve upon that result. Too back they lack England’s defense.
An average France performance should get three points. Given how many meaningless games have contributed to their 23-match unbeaten run, France is versed in used to avoiding potholes.
England vs. Ukraine
On Friday, Ukraine showed how impotent they look when their wide players, Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, aren’t involved. Getting a good performance from central midfielder Sergey Nazarenko (pulled early on Friday) is crucial to getting the most out of their 22-year-old wingers. Everything Oleh Blokhin does preparing his team to breakdown England should be centered around promoting those three players.
Against Sweden, England showed a willingness to come out and apply some pressure in the midfield (as they did in the first half with Kim Kallstrom). They also have players on the wings that can defend against Ukraine’s wide attackers. Able to handle Ukraine’s threats, the Three Lions only need to worry about themselves; specifically, picking the right attackers.
The co-hosts had trouble against a France team that move the ball across the width of the field, getting the back line moving. It’s a bit of a strange one because ball movement is almost never a bad thing. More pointedly, Roy Hodgson may want to consider sacrificing his more direct options for players who can move.
That happens to coincide with the return of Wayne Rooney, who will force somebody to the bench. Against Ukraine, that somebody should be Andy Carroll.
PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings
Taking a long term look, toward teams’ title hopes.
1. Germany (–)
2. Spain (–)
3. Italy (–)
4. France (+1)
5. Russia (-1)
6. Croatia (–)
7. Portugal (–)
8. England (–)
… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist
1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andres Iniesta, Spain
3. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
4. Mario Gómez, Germany
5. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
6. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
7. Mesut Ozil, Germany
8. Fabio Coentrão, Portugal
9. Xavi Hernandez, Spain
10. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany
Note: I originally published an unchanged list. That was a mistake.
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