For Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, the prime target I think will be to get past the quarters into the semi final. With the short month or so Hodgson has had in charge of the national team, and also juggling his club job at West Brom at the same time, he hasn’t had much time as he probably would have liked with the team.
England’s final two warm up games were away at Norway and home to Belgium, which both resulted in 1-0 wins. England should definitely qualify from this group, but could face Spain in the quarterfinal, which could be an interesting tie.
In goal, England number one Joe Hart (Manchester City) is between the sticks. I rate Joe Hart highly, and personally think he has the potential to be the world’s top ‘keeper, but he has a bit of work to do yet.
In defence, Glen Johnson of Liverpool has been selected, which I feel is a strange choice, as I thought Micah Richards deserved a call up after his title winning efforts for Manchester City. Phil Jones played at right back against Norway, but played with too much fear and was very defensive minded.
At centre back, John Terry looks likely to start along with Joleon Lescott, after Cahill was ruled out of the Euros with a jaw fracture. Left back and custodian Ashley Cole got skinned too much against Belgium, so will have to be on top form against Samir Nasri in England’s first group game.
England have a bit of a ‘midfield crisis’ at the moment, with two senior players ruled out through injury. Parker and Gerrard will likely start, both showing willingness in tackles. Gerrard will be hoping to get forward and getting on the score sheet, too.
On either wing, Hodgson should start with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young, with Carroll and Defoe up front for the first two games.
England will find it hard, especially with the amount of travelling they have to complete, as all three group games are in Ukraine, but their training camp and hotel is situated in Krakow, Poland.
My Prediction: Top of the group
Goalkeepers – Joe Hart (Manchester City), Robert Green (West Ham), Jack Butland (Birmingham City).
Defenders - Leighton Baines (Everton), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), John Terry (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton).
Midfielders - Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Steven Gerrard (captain, Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United).
Strikers - Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).
France will be England’s toughest competitor in Group D. Their strong frontline, skilful midfield and robust defence will cause a headache for their respective opponents.
In goal is usually Hugo Lloris, who is an incredibly solid ‘keeper, and who plays his club football at French Ligue 1 outfit Olympique Lyon. He faces good competition however, from Steve Mandana (Olympique Marsaille ), who is also a consistent performer.
Their defence is perhaps the weakest department in their squad. However, they have two very strong left backs in title winning Gael Clichy (Manchester City) and Patrice Evra (Manchester United). Since France’s somewhat bizarre 2010 World Cup campaign, Evra has been dropped to the bench due to his childlike antics.
In central defence, though, they need strengthening. Mexes (A.C Milan) is their poorest defender, and often looks out of his depth. France also have Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal, who had a good season at the heart of the Gunners’ defence.
Their midfield is full of creative players, in Yohan Cabaye who experienced a wonderful season with high achievers Newcastle United, Samir Nazri who had an average season with Premier League winners Manchester City, and Florent Malouda.
Up front is where they will cause real problems. The pace of Ribery, strength of Benzema and creativity of Ben Arfa will cause headaches to any defence, and will be a true test for England on Monday.
France had their final warm up game, which resulted in a 4-0 win against Estonia. This will surely give them some incentive and a real confidence boost.
My Prediction: 2nd in Group D
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Girondins Bordeaux).
Defenders: Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (AC Milan), Adil Rami (Valencia), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyon).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Samir Nasri (Manchester City), Alou Diarra (Olympique Marseille), Yann M’Vila (Stade Rennes), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St Germain).
Forwards: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle United), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jeremy Menez (Paris St Germain), Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Marseille).
Sweden are regarded as a ‘bogey team’ and will be very difficult to break down. In goal, Sweden have Andreas Lsaksson who plays his football for PSV. He has 93 caps for Sweden, and is a popular figure.
In defence, Sweden have West Brom captain Jonas Olsson, who is a constant performer. He will be the main outlet for set pieces along with Ibrahimovic, and these two could cause a real hindrance in the box.
Midfield is where Sweden will struggle in my opinion. They have no real creativity in there, and could be easily broken down. The star man in the midfield though, is Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) who showed some good form during the 2011/12 Premier League season. He could score a few goals from set pieces, too, so teams will have to be on full alert, and not concede needless free-kicks, as Larsson could make them pay.
Up front is where the main danger is. AC Milan front man Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a strong, robust forward, and he certainly has an eye for goal. Ex-Bolton forward Johan Elmander also is a good option up front, and Bolton have struggled to replace him, after he departed the Reebok at the end of the 2010/11 season.
I don’t think they will get out of the group, but they will play some good quality football, and certainly do their country justice.
My prediction: 3rd in Group D.
Goalkeepers: Par Hansson (Helsingborgs), Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland (Copenhagen).
Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Olof Mellberg (Olympiacos), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich), Martin Olsson (Blackburn), Behrang Safari (Anderlecht).
Midfielders: Emir Bajrami (Twente), Rasmus Elm (Alkmaar), Samuel Holmen (Istanbul BB), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Christian Wilhelmsson (Al Hilal).
Forwards: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), Tobias Hysen (IFK Gothenburg), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven).
Finally, co-hosts Ukraine. Playing on home soil could prove an advantage, but their squad is not quite good enough to compete with teams such as England, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Spain etc. I am sure, however, that it will be a good experience for them.
In goal, they have a mixture of youth and experience, although they are reasonably unreliable ‘keepers.
In defence, they have three Shakhtar Donetsk defenders, which could help consolidate the defence, as they should all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The midfield is reasonably poor, with a lack of creativity, but the majority of their midfield play for the same club, and this could mean they have a good understanding, which could surprise a few.
Up front, they have goal scoring legend Andriy Shevchenko who has 107 caps for the Ukrainians, with 46 goals. He is famously known for his successful period at A.C Milan, with whom he scored 127 goals in 226 games. He seems to be the main threat, and could be a hindrance to defences.
Despite his advancing age (35), keep note of him, as he may bag a few.
My Prediction: 4th in group.
Goalkeepers: Oleksandr Goryainov (FC Metalist Kharkiv), Maxym Koval (FC Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Pyatov (FC Shakhtar Donetsk).
Defenders: Bohdan Butko (Illychivets Mariupil), Olexandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Taras Mikhalik (Dynamo Kiev), Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Selin (Vorskla Poltava), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk).
Midfielders: Olexandr Aliyev (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Oleh Gusev (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Serhiy Nazarenko (Tavriya Simferopol), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev).
Forwards: Andriy Voronin (Dinamo Moscow), Marko Devic (Metalist Kharkiv), Artem Milevskiy (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kiev).
Written by Adam May
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