Group D Preview and Predictions

Group D is an interesting one to say the least. Ukraine, France, Sweden and England make up a somewhat strong group that is marred by injuries.

The Ukraine is behind on their Euro 2012 preparations. This does not exclude their own home squad. The Ukraine has not won a game since October of 2011. They lost to France and Sweden during their warm-up games for this tournament. That being said, a host country can never be counted out. (Just look at Greece) Still, the quality in the team is few and far between. If Andriy Shevchenko finds his form of old, maybe, just maybe Ukraine can sneak a draw in. I don’t expect to win a game during this tournament, even with the support of their home fans.

Sweden enters this tournament in good form, winning every game they have played in 2012. The competition might not have been overly competitive but wins against Croatia and Serbia cannot be discounted. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a boss. He is unstoppable when he wants to play. He attracts enough attention to give other forwards such as my personal favorite, Markus Rosenberg, a chance to make something happen. How reliable are the role players on the Sweden side in the clutch moments? I don’t think they are and Zlatan has been known to disappear in big games so I do not expect must noise from the Swedes. An all too injured England side could provide a way into the knockout rounds.

France is the odds on favorite in this group. They have had an excellent and undefeated 2012 highlighted by a win over Germany, in Germany. This was a tune up but still gives France confidence going into the tournament, something they really needed after the World Cup bust up that was as embarrassing as it was damaging for the country’s national side. France is the most well rounded team in this group and has the most depth. I expect them to get out easily and make a run to the finals. Benzema, Nasri, young gun Ben Arfa and an experienced back line are more than enough to make it happen.

England is in trouble. Injuries are unpredictable but that timing of England’s current woes could not have been worse. That combined with the John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Roy Hodgson riff is enough controversy to cause major problems for this team. Rooney is out for the first two games so it will be up to young Danny Welbeck to provide the scoring. This situation is the perfect set up for an England team with no pressure or reservations to make an unexpected run for the title. Is it likely? No. But, England still has some talent and given that the group stage should be a breeze, England could hold solid and find ways to advance further into the tournament.

I expect France to win the group outright and England to sneak out in second. England needs to get a little bit lucky but if they can find a way to organize an inexperienced back line and find goals without Wayne Rooney running the show, they will grab two wins and move on. I expect little to no resistance from the Ukraine. Sweden is a potential dark horse here but I don’t see them making it out.



Bayern Munich v Chelsea – First half takeaways

A few points from the first half at the Allianz Arena:

  • Chelsea came out in similar shape to that of the semis. Despite not creating any real chances, Chelsea had some bright points going forward and it definitely seems like they could find the goal on the counter. The game opened up for Chelsea at times. Bayern has looked a little shaky at times around their own eight. For me, the most dangerous person going forward has been Gary Cahill… that will most likely have to change for Chelsea for them to come out on top.
  • Bayern attacked as expected. Robben has been a bit more dangerous than Ribery. Muller is doing well playing as a reserved forward. Gomez will be shaking his head thinking back to the first half; two very good chances didn’t find their way into the back of the net.
  • Although Bayern was by far the better team in the first half (possession, chances, corners, etc.), the longer Bayern fail to take advantage of their opportunities, the more pressure will be piled on the team and the more confidence Chelsea will gain. This is precisely where Chelsea want to be.

Still could go either way at this point, but I’m only slightly less confident in my prediction. A goal from Gomez will leave me in a much more comfortable spot.

In other news, what the hell is on the back of Kalou’s head? Also, interesting Abby Wambach commercial at the break. Good for her.