Euro 2012: Matchday Eight (Group D)

Ukraine 0-2 France

An interesting, but mostly flat, contest once it really got going.

It’s a big come down for the co-hosts, who threatened a bit for the first 55 minutes, looking capable of getting a result, but then just fell away very badly after conceding the two goals, unable to really get themselves back into the game at all.

France, throughout the match, just looked faster and better co-ordinated. They had some gaps in their backline that Ukraine threatened ton exploit, but was nothing on Ukraine themselves, who continually had trouble dealing with Ribery down the left. At some point you just realised the goals were inevitable. They were taken well when they came and Ukraine never recovered. They are very reliant on Shevchenko, and they don’t seem to have anyone else to really rely on to get the crucial goals. For France, this was an hour-long game, followed by a half-hour warm down.

Ukraine have got it all to do, and after such a promising start against Sweden. For France, they are nearly there, with just a little bit to get from…

Sweden 2-3 England

A very entertaining contest to watch, though I come away noting both deficiencies then anything.

Both poor in defence. England was aided against France by the retreating midfield line but here, with a more attacking mindset, they had to approach the Swedish counter-attacking machine – and Ibrahimovich – on their own. They struggled to do that. If Sweden’s pacy attack hadn’t been so wasteful, even just in terms of not holding the ball up at the wrong time or making the flank passes when players were in good positions, England could potentially have been on the wrong end of a hiding.

That didn’t happy though. Sweden’s star man was mediocre and it was left to Mellsberg to be their hero. That being said, both Swedish goals were more to do with atrocious English defending from set pieces, Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole looking hapless at times against the Swedish forwards. John Terry too was off the pace a fair bit.

But it was in attack that England excelled. An excellent Gerard cross met a powerful Carroll header. Walcott put a delicate swerve on his effort, though the wrong-footed keeper could take more blame for it. And Welbeck, well I think it might have been accidental then anything (the ball hit the back of his leg as he was raising it, rather than being directed as he lowered it) but they all count. Young was poor, as was Milner, but Parker and Welbeck have improved a lot since the first game.

Sweden had the pace and the attacking movement to get more chances and get more goals, but they did not take them. The openness of the game allowed the English to make their own chances, and that will leave some burning frustration for the Swedes.

They came with a lot of promise and with more than enough within the squad to best England, but Sweden have faltered badly. Spoiling France’s chances is all they can do. As for England, they have many flaws – this defence will get shown up badly by the likes of Spain or Germany – but they have enough to ensure at least a draw against Ukraine, barring another barn-storming Shevchenko performance.

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