The day of reckoning has arrived, can England win the European Championship? Or will they settle for the Fair Play Award?

6 years ago

By Teg



Tournament co-hosts Ukraine have waited patiently for their first ever European Championship appearance and despite having been gifted a place in the tournament due to their hosting, they’ve come so agonisingly close in recent years that it’s hard to argue they don’t deserve their place. 

Key Player

Anatoliy Tymoschuk started the Champions League final at centre back but it will be just in front of Ukraine’s leaky defence that the Bayern Munich man will be asked to provide neat, direct passing to flanker Andriy Yarmolenko of whom much is expected this summer while offering the extra man covering for a backline sans Barcelona flop Dmytro Chygrynskiy who would be Ukraine’s strongest defender were he not injured.

Where will the goals come from?

Andriy Shevchenko is still the main man up top for Ukraine and while it would be easy to make jokes about his time at Chelsea, he’s got a genuine history of terrifying deadliness in front of goal and could see a tournament in his home nation as the perfect way to end a trophy laden career. Andriy Yarmolenko has a weight of expectation on his shoulders as the next Shevchenko but will have a job-on tracking the line out wide on the right.

How far will they go?

It will take three acts of pure home nation inspiration for Ukraine to get this team through the group stages, but England and France remain unknown entities until they take the field tonight and could conspire to force themselves out of the tournament, leaving room for Oleg Blokhin’s men to progress.



Oh, England. After a shocking World Cup campaign Fabio Capello had appeared to take control of the team, getting them playing in a formation resembling something you’d see played in the modern game, adding Jack Wilshere to England’s midfield of perennial failures seemed to be working and the emergence of Scott Parker seemed to promise the passing game we’d all wished for. But an injury to Wilshere and a failure on Capello’s part to act on the intensifying John Terry racism scandal lead to an over-exuberant F.A stepping in and forcing the Italian to resign [if he wasn’t going to do anything about “the Terry situation” then did we really want him managing the national team?] and here we are. Roy Hodgson appears to be suggesting a backs-to-the-wall, catch them on the break approach in the opening clash with France tonight and while our hearts weep for the future of the national game, the squad doesn’t exactly lend itself to the attacking styles adopted by Spain, Germany or Holland.

Key Player

Joe Hart is going to have a fair amount of work to do against France tonight and will probably end up counting this summer as one of the biggest learning experiences in what promises to be a long and prosperous career. A genuine leader, Hart should probably have been considered for the captain’s armband and probably will be when Steven Gerrard steps aside. If Hart can drag us through the first two games then Wayne Rooney will become England’s key player, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

 Where will the goals come from?

Danny Welbeck showed great composure to score his match winner against Belgium last week and probably represents our most rounded attacking prospect before the return of Rooney, but you have to wonder why Jermain Defoe has been brought to the tournament if his experience and goal scoring record in international tournaments doesn’t make him at least a consideration in the first two games. We’ve basically given up trying to work-out the squad planning of Roy Hodgson though. Ashley Young will pose a threat should he work himself into space [he might need a midfielder to get close to him for that to happen and all signs point to that not happening] and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s got a rocket coupled with a very sharp focus when the goal’s in sight, but we’re already worried that too much is expected of the teenage prodigy.

How far will they go?

On paper England still have a stronger team than that of Ukraine and Sweden and should see themselves qualify for the quarter finals [which should be considered an achievement] but further progress seems unlikely. We’re not being overly negative here, England do have a chance against France tonight [they’re not that good], but Hodgson barely knows his team and the players are unlikely to be fully in sync with the John Terry scandal still lingering.



If Fabio Capello were still in charge of England, we’d consider France in a parallel state of development, fresh from a few humiliating years of enforced transition and with a few exciting [if unproven] young players scattered about. As things stand though, Laurent Blanc’s side are a couple of years ahead of Hodgson’s men and while they can’t claim to have a side as strong as their Euro 2000 winning team, in Karim Benzema they have a goal scorer in form and fresh from a Spanish title win and Yann M’Vila who many are calling the heir to Patrick Vieira’s throne, Franck Ribery who remains one of the best in the game. France are quietly optimistic this summer.

Key Player

Yohan Cabaye caused shockwaves in his debut Premier League season, helping transform the Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton lead Newcastle United team recently promoted from the Championship into the nearly men of the Champions League race. Likely to be underestimated by most outside of England, Cabaye will be asked to create space for Ribery and Malouda to charge through and join the dots between M’Vila and Samir Nasri in the midfield. If France are going to flow as they should, Yohan Cabaye will need to pull the strings.

Where will the goals come from?

Karim Benzema scored 31 goals for Real Madrid last season and probably wasted as many clear chances. The former Lyon man thinks a lot of himself, which won’t do him any harm in tournament football, but perhaps a lack of pressure on his position [only rumoured Arsenal target Oliver Giroud has been selected as a genuine alternative] could heap more pressure than he’s used to on the 24 year old. A La Liga title win and two seasons of Jose Mourinho’s unwavering support though mean very few players will be as mentally prepared as Benzema.

How far will they go?

France could win Euro 2012. They’ve got a manager with ideas and the belief of the squad, they’ve got a point to prove and they’ve got a scattering of elite players. They don’t have much of a defence though, and their squad doesn’t offer the most luxurious of options should things not be going their way. Le Bleus will make it out of the group stages and could push on, with the wind on their side and a firing Benzema and sky’s the limit. We don’t expect them to win it, but we’ve got a sneaky feeling their might be something to this team.




The Sweden team never seems to change, does it? A team of hard-working, organized journeymen and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sebastian Larsson can win games, as can Kim Kallstrom, but nothing happens in a yellow shirt without Zlatan’s say-so. Not expected to beat France or England, Sweden will play with the freedom of a team in transition and could cause a shock. If Johan Elmander can carry his goal scoring form for Galatasaray into the tournament then he and Ibrahimovic could prove deadly.

Key Player

Lazy English pundits have “never seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic do it on the big stage,” ignoring his eight league titles [which came in eight consecutive seasons, for five clubs, in three countries, by the way] but we reckon he’s pretty good. 31 goals in 77 international appearances despite never having anybody in the squad anywhere near his class indicates that Zlatan can do it on his own. This summer he’ll be asked to provide for Johan Elmander who’s continued his goalscoring run from his latter days at Bolton Wanderers at Galatasaray. 

Where will the goals come from?

Sweden are a rarity at Euro 2012 in that they’ll play two strikers. Zlatan we know can score and Elmander is expected to step-up and provide a genuine threat. Sebastian Larsson can do damage from set-pieces and Markus Rosenberg is a threat from the bench.

How far will they go?

Sweden will look to get their campaign off to a strong start against Ukraine tonight and should they claim maximum points then qualification will be well and truly in their sights. Winning against France or England will prove a massive ask, but discipline and focus could undo the impatient former and nervous latter. Unlikely but far from impossible.