When favorites win, predictions usually seem to be on. That’s what has happened the last two days. Will tomorrow be any different?
Sweden is supposedly going to be playing a lot of second string players now that they have been eliminated from the tournament. If Ibrahimovic doesn’t play, it will obviously be a big boost for France. Sometimes, when reserve players play – and these aren’t scrubs but full internationals – and they aren’t under any pressure to get a result, the underdog usually does well. However, with France knowing that a loss could eliminate them from the tournament if the other game ends in a draw, they will go all out to win. Add to that the benefit of not having to play Spain in the next round if France wins this match by enough of a margin – though it’s not entirely clear whether you would want to play Italy or Spain in a knockout match at this stage – and that’s enough for me to predict a France win. Stone cold lock.
Pre-game prediction: France 2 Sweden 0
Benzema and Ribery to score for France.
The England game could go either way. What does Roy do now? Draw and England are through. But, you are playing the host country who have to win to go through with Shevchenko possibly out… or possibly in for a glorious finish. What if you sit back and give up a late goal – can you come back? I believe he will choose the safe path. Start Welbeck up front with Rooney in the slot. Young on the left, Gerrard on the right and Milner and Parker at holding midfield. I wouldn’t start Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott initially. They are to come on for Young and Milner depending on what the score is in the second half. The interesting thing will be to see how Rooney and Gerrard play. My feeling is you should let Rooney have a free role in the slot and have Gerrard drop more centrally between Parker and Milner. It would be a modified Christmas tree that let’s Roy see if the Manchester United trio can do the business at the goal end of the tree.
Pre-game prediction: England 1 Ukraine 1
England could easily score three again, but I think it will be Gerrard for England and Yarmolenko for Ukraine.
Wazza’s hair transplant looks very awkward now that he has buzzed the sides. That’s all I need to say about the lead-in to the game. That and the fact that Ibra looks like I’d imagine Atilla would look like if he was a Samurai.
Why England will win
- Sweden lacks the pace, especially on defense, to keep up with the England counter attack. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Welbeck will be too quick for the Swedes, especially Melberg and Granqvist.
- As result of the reserve goalie’s butt on YouTube, Ibrahimovic’s blasting of his teammates and the starting lineup, and the giving up of a lead to two goals from one of the oldest players to ever score two goals in a major international tournament, Sweden does not have the best mindset going into this game.
- Terry and Lescott can frustrate Ibrahimovic up front. Ibra typically does not like playing against big defenders on EPL teams and the England lineup with its defensive setup should be even more difficult for the big Swede. Elmander could help him if he is inserted in the starting lineup, but I just don’t see him making much difference. England is well aware of him from his time at Bolton.
- Hodgson’s tactics are perfect against an aggressive Sweden who has to win this match if they are to hold out hope of qualifying for the next stage.
Why Sweden will win
- Scott Parker may not be able to play, or if he does, his Achilles problem will hinder his effort. Gerrard didn’t have a great game. Is there anyone left in England’s midfield who can adequately clog up the middle – and please don’t say Jordan Henderson can do that job?
- England didn’t really generate any meaningful chances against France apart from the open net miss by Milner and the goal Lescott scored. They will have to do better against Sweden if they hope to take anything away from this game. Sweden will score against England and they are big enough to withstand dead ball situations when England will look to have Terry and Lescott try to nick one.
- Ibrahimovic will back up his anger and bluster and supreme self confidence now that he has put his team and managers on blast. There will be no “cowards” or lack of effort from Sweden.
Pre-game prediction: England 1 Sweden 1
England will accept getting a point and leaving it up to Rooney in the last game to take them to the next round with a win over Ukraine. That said, a bonus for winning the group is not having to probably play Spain in the next round. Much easier to deal with Italy or Croatia. Anyway, we get ahead of ourselves. Welbeck or Gerrard (penalty) to score for England and Sebastian Larsson to score for Sweden on a free kick.
Home field advantage is really all Ukraine has going for it and that could be a big factor in an opening game. This is probably the least anticipated game of the first round of games in group stage but it could provide for a fun game as Sweden’s offensive minded scheme comes up against the counter attack tactics that Ukraine will probably deploy.
Why Ukraine will win
- Their wily coach and ex-Russia superstar, Oleg Blokhin, inspires his team to perform way above their capabilities and will employ tactics that keep Ukraine solid defensively and wait for the right opportunity to break against a suspect Swedish defense.
- Home field advantage. You saw the Polish crowd on opening day. This will be as loud and proud.
- Tymoshchuk, Gusev and Voronin are all talented players who can turn a game on their day.
Why Sweden will win
- The offensive talents of Elm, Elmander and Ibrahimovic will be too much for Ukraine
- Ukraine has a big question mark in goal and their best defender and former Barca man, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, is going to miss the tournament due to injury.
- Sebastian Larsson and Ibra are among the best short and long distance free kick specialists, respectively, in the world. Dead ball situations usually decide games in big tournaments such as these.
Pre-match prediction: Sweden 2 Ukraine 1
Sweden will win and this could be a shutout but I believe Voronin can sneak one. Ibra and Elmander to score for Sweden.
Let’s get the Spain v Greece game out of the way. Who knows how this turns out. Spain is going to rest most of the squad. Greece is out. This is a useless game to try and predict. I will pick Spain to still win.
Russia and Sweden. I am going with the Russians. They play attractive football. Arshavin (pictured below) is probably going to be starting as the playmaker behind Pavlyuchenko so they should be able to open up defenses even better than they already have been able to. Sweden is going to tire towards the end of the game, especially if they have to chase the game. I expect a slow beginning from Sweden who will hope that Ibrahimovic can start, score a goal in the first half with a moment of brilliance and then sit out the second half with the Swedes banking on not being breached twice as they only need a draw to progress. This might be the game that one of the Larssons finally scores in. The odds are stacked against the Russians.
That being said, Russia will open the Swedes up and they will score at least two goals. I think this is a high scoring game as the Swedes will score on the counter as well.
Pre-game prediction: Russia 3 Sweden 2, Spain 1 Greece 0
I am so ready for the quarterfinals – Portugal v Germany, Croatia v Turkey, Spain v Italy and Holland v Sweden/Russia. This is why the Euros is the best football tournament in the world…
CH12 looks to have cleaned away some of the grime on the crystal ball. The game is even and Ibrahimovic and Torres have scored, as predicted, with great individual skill. It was a great angled ball to Silva that set up the cross for Torres to score from – the defender was fooled into believing the ball was going back to the corner taker and that gave Silva the time to pick out Torres. Ramos is a great player but he was caught slacking on the cross to Ibrahimovic. Zlatan is a big, strong guy and he basically took Ramos’ lash on his left leg, blocked it, and then turned for the finish. Spain may actually benefit from Albiol coming in for Puyol and were unlucky not to get a penalty for Elmander’s clumsy challenge on Silva.
This game is a toss up, but Sweden looks stronger going into the second half. Villa has been very quiet and Iniesta and Silva haven’t really done anything. Silva, in particular, is a bit of a luxury IMO. He is not showing the pace and wing magic that they need in order to give Torres and Villa more space in the box. As a result, it almost feels like Ramos has to come up the right wing more often to deliver crosses. Which puts him out of position when the other team comes back on a quick counter attack. Aragones – bring in Cesc for Iniesta and Sergio Garcia for Silva. I bet you regret leaving Capel, Joaquin and Tamudo behind.
Update – Ibrahimovic substituted at the half due to injury…
This should be a fascinating day of football. Two draws will have the last day become a crazy scramble as head to head records may be used to determine who goes through if teams are tied on points.
Spain will probably be considered the favorites given the way they beat the Russians, but that was a lot closer than it seemed for most of the game. I still believe the middle of the defense for Spain is a weakness. However, even though Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson are great strikers, their speed is not going to be as troubling for Puyol and Marchena as is their power in the air. I believe that it is going to be tough for Wilhelmsson and Ljunberg to get much change against Ramos, so they need to test Capdevila on the left to get crosses into the box. Both teams play good football and can move the ball around the field well, with Spain’s midfield technically stronger. It’s going to be evenly matched and I wouldn’t be surprised by either side winning by a goal or ending it in a scoring draw. Mellberg on Torres will be a key matchup. I think Torres and Ibrahimovic will score in the game.
I really like the way Russia plays – Hiddink has them playing pretty football. It’s really too bad that Arshavin is suspended for this game as well and won’t be able to play till the Sweden game. His passing and vision are wonderful – he provided a masterful display in the UEFA Cup Final against Rangers – and is exactly what Russia needs to unlock a tight Greek defense. However, he is paying the price for a red card during qualifying. Another potential injury concern is striker Pavlyuchenko. He is expected to play. If not, Sychev will step in adequately. I hope Russia wins, but it’s entirely possible that they leave themselves exposed to the Greek counter attack once too often and pay the price. However, I put my faith in their ability to carve open the Greeks as Russia plays it on the ground much more than most teams that get frustrated and start crossing balls that Dellas and company eat up. That, a bit of luck and better finishing should get them past Greece.
Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Sweden 1
Russia 2 Greece 1
This set of results would set up a fantastic finale between Russia and Sweden…
There were three good things about this match – that Greece lost, Ibrahimovic’s goal and that Greece lost. I know you are allowed to play however you want to play, and I understand packing eleven behind the ball and playing for the counter attack. The top club teams in Europe see that every week against the lesser sides. However, I have never seen a FIRST game where one side passed the ball between their backs for two to four minutes at a time without even trying to move it forward. It was disgraceful from the Greeks and for once, the game was not cruel to the other side.
Ibrahimovic’s rocket justified CH12’s faith in his ability – Andy Gray should give him a public apology for questioning his performance in big games (didn’t you see the last game of the Serie A?). Fantastic one two with Henrik Larsson followed by a shot that would be characterized as a bit of a mishit from a lesser striker. I give him the benefit of the doubt and say he meant to strike it that way. High risk, outstanding result. Nothing more to say about the game – the second goal was an absurd pinball through the five hole. You couldn’t score it that way if you tried it fifty times.
Pre-game prediction: Sweden 2 Greece 0
Result: Sweden 2 Greece 0
Scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Petter Hansson (Sweden)
CH12 (I don’t quite see how Ronaldo finds this mnemonic thing cool – CR7 sounds like an Audi and CH12 sound like a hydrocarbon) is now 5 and 3 for the tournament. Round 2 coming up…