Euro 2012 Group D Betting Preview
Considering some of the draws, England will be relatively pleased with their opponents in Group D. Roy Hodgson faces a baptism of fire this summer as England boss as his side face France, Sweden and the co-hosts Ukraine.
A month before Euro 2012 England had no manager, no captain and no direction. Roy Hodgson is the man who has been charged with improving England’s tournament fortunes, but a lack of genuine talent and doubts over his squad selection could mean it’s another disappointing summer.
England remain 1/2 favourites to qualify from Group D despite Wayne Rooney’s two match suspension. A tournament that was expected to be lit up by England’s next generation won’t now happen as there’s no room for Daniel Sturridge, Adam Johnson, Micah Richards, Chris Smalling, Jack Wilshire or Kyle Walker in the squad.
Seeing Hodgson’s squad, I was reminded of the old saying “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Considering much of this squad failed spectacularly in South Africa, don’t expect much from England this summer.
Ashley Young has scored four England goals in recent months and alongside Theo Walcott, the pair provide England’s attacking threat. Steven Gerrard also needs to have a great summer after failing to perform for his country in an international tournament.
There’s been a quiet revolution in France since the revolt in South Africa two years ago and the subsequent appointment of Laurent Blanc as the new manager. Selecting a crop of promising Ligue 1 stars alongside a sprinkling of talent has made France a tough side to beat.
France conceded just four goals in qualifying and have a solid looking back four including Milan’s Philippe Mexes and Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye will play in midfield alongside the talented Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri.
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema is France’s main goal threat while they have some great impact players including Hatem Ben Arfa, Yoann Gourcuff and Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud whose goals fired his side to an unlikely Ligue 1 title.
With eight wins, Sweden qualified for Euro 2012 as the best runner-up and boast a squad of players with extensive international experience. Sweden beat World Cup finalists Holland 3-2 in qualifying and shouldn’t be underestimated – particularly not by England who haven’t beaten them in tournament football since 1968.
Swedish fans remain divided over the inclusion of Zlatan Ibrahimovic who scored five times in eight qualifying matches. While Ibra is a supremely talented player, critics say that Sweden function better with Johan Elmander and PSV star Ola Toivonen in attack. However, considering he is captain, Ibrahimovic should start for his country.
Sweden are 7/4 to qualify from Group D and their match against France on 19 June could be crucial.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has yet to show English fans what he is capable of while Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson was an ever-present in qualifying. Lyon’s Kim Kallstrom has 90 caps and will provide a threat from midfield.
Home sides invariably perform well at international tournaments, although Ukraine’s lowly world ranking could buck that trend.
All but two of Oleg Blokhin’s Euro 2012 squad ply their trade for Ukrainian clubs but there is plenty of experience in the side. Captain and record goalscorer Andriy Shevchenko leads the attack while Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk played in this season’s Champions League final.
A promising 3-3 draw with Germany in a recent friendly will give the co-hosts hope, but I don’t fancy them to qualify for the knockout stages.
Young Dynamo Kiev midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko has 7 goals in just 18 appearances while the experienced midfielders Ruslan Rotan and Sergiy Nazarenko are also a threat.
After the recent shambles, qualification from Group D is about the limit of England fans’ expectations this summer. On paper, the Three Lions should reach the quarter finals, but they have hardly enjoyed the best preparation.
Any slip-ups and France and Sweden could well profit. I think the 7/4 on Sweden qualifying could represent decent value.