Don’t Write England Off In The Euros

by Richard Smith

Monday, June 18th, 2012

England will go into their final Group D game against Co-hosts Ukraine knowing that a draw or win will see them progress to the knock out stages of Euro 2012 with a Quarter Final tie likely against holders and world champions, Spain.

England currently sit in second place behind France on goal difference but to avoid Spain in the last  eight, they will need to defeat Ukraine emphatically and hope that France slip up in some way in their final match against Sweden. The Swedes of course have already been eliminated from the tournament and the match for them is purely an academic affair, which gives even more reason why overhauling Lea Bleus from top spot will be extremely difficult for the Three Lions.

It should not be forgotten either that Ukraine are still very much in the tournament and although they were outplayed by France on Friday, losing 2-0, they know that an improved performance in front of a partisan crowd could be enough to give England a match and possible qualification for themselves. They also defeated England1-0 the Last time the two teams met in Ukraine in a World Cup qualifier in 2009!

Certainly Ukraine were good enough to defeat the Swedes on match day one, winning 2-1 with Andriy Shevchenko netting a brace. He is reported injured currently and could well be missing from the line up, although being potentially his last ever international for his country in such an important match, then surely he will make a miraculous recovery in time for kick off and as such, England’s defence should be planning for the former Chelsea forward playing.

Shevchenko grabbed both goals againstSwedenfrom set pieces proving thatUkrainehave been working on set piece exploitation. If this is the case then they will recognise thatEnglandcould be vulnerable as they conceded both in their match againstSwedenat set piece situations. It will be a worrying aspect for England fans, especially given the defensive errors in the two goals conceded against Sweden but they should be comforted by the fact that Ukraine are short of quality elsewhere in their team and are very definitely exploitable themselves at set pieces and open play.

Roy Hodgson will be pleased the way his team bounced back quickly after going behind in Friday’s game and also how the introduction of Walcott made the difference – an England manager with a “Plan B” has got to be another positive for England fans. Andy Carroll scored a cracking header and really looks like he has the hunger that best strikers need in tournament football. Theo Walcott proved that his speed and guile probably outweighs James Milner’s industry on the right hand side of midfield and he should start againstUkraine. The Arsenal winger scored in a rather fortuitous manner to pullEnglandlevel but made a great darting run to feed Danny Welbeck whose clever swivel allowed him to score a superb winner. It will now be interesting to see which of either Carroll or Welbeck stands down to make way for the returning Wayne Rooney whose two match Euro 2012 ban is now complete.

As far as the betting is concernedEnglandare the 5/4 favourites to win the match while the draw is next best at 23/10 with aUkrainewin at 12/5. Rooney has been made the 5/1 favourite to score the opening goal and is a 6/4 chance to score at anytime during the match but whether he will even start remains open to debate.

In conclusion, England should prove too strong for the Ukraine. The fact that a draw is sufficient shouldn’t affect the way they approach this match and a win should be the aim. If Hodgson wants to assert his authority, he would keep the partnership of Welbeck and Carroll up front which would show that no player (i.e Rooney) is indispensible and should he be required, he would be a great option to come off the bench and potentially keep fresh for the last and (and hopefully beyond). Whilst they are far from the polished article, England has shown more in the opening two games in Euro 2012 than they did in all four at the World Cup two years ago. Could their luck be about to change? It’s a tough ask if Spain are up next but with expectations far from high, they cannot be written off.

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