Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Group D Review

England & France qualified from Group D last night but neither looked convincing in doing so.

England beat Ukraine 1-0 to top the group and set up a Quarter-Final tie with Italy. They were made to work hard for the victory & even had a bit of help from the goal line assistant.

For most of the game Ukraine were dominant & better finishing from their strikers and England could well have been in trouble.

The games main talking point will no doubt be the goal that never was. Marko Devic's shot crept over the line just as John Terry acrobatically swung a foot at it. The referee & his assistants said it was no goal but television replays proved otherwise.

England will no doubt point to Frank Lampard's effort against Germany in South Africa 2010. The ball was over the line then & it was over the line last night. It's not England or John Terry's fault that the refereeing team got the decision wrong. The group at fault here is FIFA.

I understand there is due to be a decision made about the use of goal line technology shortly after this tournament. That's all very well & hopefully it gets the go ahead but it's still too late for the Ukraine national team. This isn't a new thing & the debate has been rumbling on for years. The technology has been available for a while now so there's not really any excuse not to have something in place by now.

After the goal that never was Ukraine continued to press but England stood firm at 1-0 & won the group.

I mentioned in my preview last night that I felt Milner & Young weren't doing enough. Once again I wasn't impressed by either & would like to see Walcott & Oxlade-Chamberlain getting a start.

The Italians rely heavily on their full-backs / wing-backs to give them width. Even when they went to 4-4-2 the 4 in midfield played in a narrow diamond & it was up to the full-backs to get forward & provide the width. England could play Walcott & Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide forcing the Italian full-backs to stay back more & then try to crowd out the packed centre of the pitch.

England will also have to defend better against Italy. They gave Sweden & Ukraine far too many chances. If chances are falling to Cassano, Di Natale or Balotelli then you are going to suffer.

I think the Quarter-Final will be a tough battle between two teams who will concentrate more on not losing than winning and I would not be at all surprised to see this one go all the way to a penalty shootout.

France clinched a Quarter-Final place despite losing 2-0 to Sweden.

France will have to improve if they are to give defending champions, Spain, any cause for concern.

In their 3 games they haven't looked great. Star striker, Karim Benzema has drawn a blank in all 3 games. He has been playing an unusual role for France. He keeps dropping out into midfield and when the ball is going into the box he's usually not in there. It's almost as if he is playing the false number 9 role but nobody else knows about it. None of the other French players are making use of the space he is leaving & a lot of French attacks die out because of it.

Against Spain, France won't get a huge amount of chances & when they come they will need someone to be there to finish it off. Benzema is a quality finisher but he hasn't shown it so far in Ukraine.

France do have a few individuals who can hurt Spain and they will need them to be at their best. All the French hopes lie on the shoulders of Ribery, Nasri and Benzema. If one of those can do something special they have a chance but if not then it will be Spain who go onto the Semi-Finals.

Another of the co-hosts crashed out last night after Ukraine's 1-0 defeat to England.

Ukraine can be proud of their efforts in Euro 2012. Their 2-1 win over Sweden will undoubtedly live long in the memory of every Ukrainian. Their opening game as a co-host of the European Championships, their inspirational captain who is long past his best pops up with a double to give them a 2-1 victory. It's the sort of thing Hollywood script writers dream of.

Unfortunately for Ukraine that was their peak. A 2-0 defeat at the hands of France set up a win or go home clash with England. Ukraine were quite poor against France and I feel they were victims of the same hangover Denmark suffered from after their win over Holland. It's amazing how many times in football a team has a huge result, only to go and lose the next game.

As I've already mentioned Ukraine were unlucky to lose to England. They had huge amounts of possession but lacked that little bit of quality in the final third that they would have had a few years back with Sergei Rebrov and Shevchenko. Even though he is past his best, based on the Sweden game a fully fit Shevchenko may well have caused the England defence a few extra problems.

Ukraine can take a lot of positives from this tournament & they can now concentrate on trying to qualify for Brazil in 2014.

Sweden, Sweden, Sweden. Where do you start with Sweden? They lost the first game to Ukraine, lose the next one to England and become the 2nd team to be eliminated.

At this stage the obituaries are being written & then bang, they absolute destroy France.

I've absolutely no idea were that performance came from. They won 2-0 but it really could & should have been more. Big Zlatan scored a sensational goal. I give him a lot of stick but that goal was as good as anything I've saw this summer.

Sunderland's Seb Larsson got the 2nd when he blasted home a rebound from close range.

Sweden did not look good in their first two games & as an Ireland fan I was looking at them as a team we could beat in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers but based on last night's display we might have to rethink that idea. If Sweden take last night's performance into the qualifiers then surely they are strong favourites to get that 2nd place spot behind Germany.

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