Round two fixtures will come to a close on Friday as Group D action resumes from Ukraine. The first match of the day will pit an exciting France side taking on the hosts, and current group leaders, Ukraine.
France entered Euro 2012 with their minds fixated on retribution for their past failures on the world stage. Though they entered in amazing form, they were a tad disappointing in their opening match against the English. Laurent Blanc’s side did direct an impressive 21 shots on target, while controlling the tempo of the game, but managed few substantial chances, and proved they are still vulnerable at the back. The 1-1 result however sets the French up well for this match, and they’ll be surely be focused on obtaining a full three points in what will be a hostile, pro-Ukrainian atmosphere. Finishing first in Group D is very important, as it most likely means avoiding a quarter-final match against Spain. Laurent Blanc is well aware of this, and will look for his side to be more clinical in their finishing come Friday.
Ukraine meanwhile pulled off a stunning result in their first game, storming back to beat Sweden by a 2-1 score-line. It seems as if Andriy Shevchenko has found the Fountain of Youth as the 35-year old looked brilliant as he netted two goals in six minutes to put the home crowd into a frenzied state. However, playing France and England in successive matches still means advancement will be a steep uphill battle. Against Sweden, Ukraine were the better side, but were susceptible at the back on many occasions, experiencing great difficulty in shutting down Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If Ukraine can’t tighten up, a hungry French side loaded with offensive weapons will surely silence the home fans at the Donbass Arena.
France vs Ukraine Betting Odds:
France (+110) / Draw (+230) / Ukraine (+290)
Over 2 (-130) / Under 2 (+110)
Match Analysis & Pick:
France were not happy with only managing a draw in their first match against England, and will look to take their frustrations out on a confident Ukrainian side. Ukraine fed off the emotions from their boisterous home-crowd against Sweden, and will look to employ that high energy game against the French. France’s centre-backs, Phillippe Mexes and Adil Rami have been criticized heavily in the past weeks about their poor form, and if the Ukraine can effectively pressure this duo, another shock result could be in the making.
However, unfortunately for the Ukrainians, one of the rising stars of French soccer will draw back into the line-up in Yann M’Villa. The midfielder was out injured against England on Monday, and will provide Laurent Blanc’s side with a true ball-winner in the centre of the pitch. M’Villa has been a staple to every effective French starting eleven under Blanc, and with him back in the fold, France will have no problem controlling the midfield and dictating the tempo of the game from there. Expect M’Villa to replace Alou Diarra, highlighting another example of the formidable depth Les Bleus possess.
Ukraine meanwhile have a huge opportunity if they can tame M’Villa and emerge victorious as they would be guaranteed to progress to the next round with a full three points. The country has struggled recently on the world-stage of international soccer, and a result such as this one would be paramount for the country’s program moving forward. If they are to win, they’ll need another masterful performance from the experienced Shevchenko, and will need to pray France will struggle mightily with their finishing.
Coach Oleg Blokhin has raised headlines in anticipation of the match, predicting the French will not attack against the Ukrainians, and expects a passive affair. However, France knows the strength of their side lies in their all-world attack. With Benzema, Ribery, and Nasri up front, and now add in M’Villa providing service, France will engage the Ukrainians on the attack, and should be successful in doing so. France put up more shots than any other team in round one, and posted a staggering passing accuracy rate of 92%. Both figures currently lead the tournament, and another performance like that against a Ukrainian side that doesn’t nearly possess the quality England has, should mean France will surely send the Ukrainian supporters home in a foul mood.
Look for an inspired performance from Ukraine but ultimately it won’t be enough. Despite Blokhin’s protestations that France will merely play cautious soccer, expect the Ukrainians to be the tentative team. France’s strengths are in its world-class attack, and that will be what crushes Ukraine on Friday. Expect M’Villa to help control possession and the match against Ukraine, not allowing Shevchenko to pressure the pairing of Mexes and Rami, while Nasri’s brisk movement will cause trouble for Ukraine’s slow centre-backs. Look for France to emerge victorious with a comfortable victory against the hosts on Friday.
PICK: France To Win (+110)