Euro 2012’s group stage comes to a conclusion on Tuesday, as the final set of Group D matches get underway. While France will take on an already eliminated Sweden team in one game, England and Ukraine will do battle with advancement on the line in the other.
England entered the competition amid a wave of pessimism and injury concerns, though have been fairly solid through their first two matches. After netting a draw against a powerful French side, the English showed a ton of resiliency in their second game, fighting back to score a huge victory against Sweden. Now in their final group game against the host country of Ukraine, the Three Lions know victory will not come easy. However, with one of the game’s best strikers in Wayne Rooney returning for England from suspension, the English boast a wealth of riches up front and should prove deadly on the attack against a slow Ukrainian back-line.
Meanwhile, for Ukraine’s squad this is truly the game of their lives. Playing in front of their passionate home supporters against a world-class opponent in England will be a tough and pressure-filled situation. Will they collapse under the weight of expectations akin to Poland? Or will they rise above and secure the necessary three points? It remains to be seen what will unfold in a wide-open Group D, but the Ukrainians will have to push forward and secure a victory, as a draw does them no good. Making matters worse is key striker and national hero Andriy Shevchenko is doubtful to suit up, meaning opportunities may be few and far between for an already offensively-challenged side.
England vs Ukraine Betting Odds:
England (+115) / Draw (+235) / Ukraine (+275)
Over 2.5 (+105) / Under 2.5 (-125)
Match Analysis & Pick:
If you would’ve told Ukrainian coach Oleg Blokhin at the start of the competition that he’d have the opportunity for his side to play in one game for a shot to advance to the quarter-finals, he would’ve agreed to that instantly. This is a great opportunity for a Ukrainian side that normally doesn’t qualify for major tournaments. However, like they were in the France game, I fear home supporters will once again go home unhappy, as the English have too much class at all positions on the pitch.
Despite the poor-form and injury concerns of England entering the tournament, they’re a determined bunch, intent on proving their detractors wrong. With Rooney re-entering a line-up that has had little problems generating offense, look for Roy Hodgson’s side to control possession and secure scoring opportunities at will. Though Hodgson is often said to be a defensively-minded coach and a draw does secure them a berth in the next round, facing Spain is a lot harder than taking on the Italians. England are decently positioned to win this group on a positive goal-differential and more goals scored, and should look to win the group by beating Ukraine in convincing fashion.
Though Ukraine did surprise early in the tournament with a stunning comeback victory against Sweden, that is likely to be the highlight of their competition. Without Shevchenko playing at 100 percent, Blokhin’s group won’t have the depth or quality to exploit an English team that has shown defensive deficiencies. Moreover, with Ukraine having no choice but to adopt an attacking style in order to secure a win, not having the country’s best goal-scorer is devastating to morale and will play into England’s game-plan. Expect Ukraine to force the issue in the early going, feeding off the roars from the home crowd, but ultimately the experience and composure of the better England side will prevail. England will take the opportunities the Ukrainians give them on the counter, and the likes of Walcott, Welbeck, Rooney, and Gerrard should simply be too much for a Ukrainian side unaccustomed to facing such talents.
Tensions will undoubtedly be high in the Donbass Arena in what promises to be a hostile atmosphere against the English. However, this is a capable England team that is used to be playing in matches of this magnitude. They’ve passed all their tests to date, and look for them to pass yet another one come Tuesday evening. Ultimately, the quality and ball movement of England will be hypnotizing to an overwhelmed Ukrainian side, and look for the English to secure a comfortable berth into the quarter-finals.
PICK: England To Win (+115)