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.
No Lampard, no Beckham and no Zidane. Will this matchup live up to the one in Euro 2004 when Lampard scored first, Becks missed a penalty that would have put the match beyond doubt and then England were defeated courtesy of a late double by Zidane? I doubt it. France comes into the tournament on a long unbeaten streak, but they haven’t hit the heights in the lead in to Euro 2012 and England seems incapable of scoring more than one goal in any match with the lineup and tactics Hodgson is employing.
Why England will win
- Hodgson has instilled his traditional game plan of being solid defensively with two banks of four and speed utilized to break on the counter and grab a goal against the run of play. It’s pragmatic and he certainly has the speed in the lineup.
- England’s injuries, new coach and absence of talismanic Rooney has reduced expectations and the accompanying pressure that has seemed to paralyze past England squads. Not much is expected of this England squad and that could be the key to unlocking the potential of the squad – with a lot of luck.
- England finally has a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart. It’s been ten years since David Seaman played in goal (and if you don’t consider him a top keeper, you have to go back to 1983 for Ray Clemence). Since then the “Golden Generation” has had to play with the likes of Scott Carson, Rob Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Paul Robinson, David James and Richard Wright in goal.
- They have game changers in the speedy Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If Welbeck is fit, his partnership with Young will be dangerous.
- Group stage games aren’t decided on penalties.
Why France will win
- England’s injuries mean that there is no real continuity in defense. It is tough to play a coordinated defensive strategy that Hodgson’s system requires when you haven’t had enough time to familiarize yourself with it given Roy’s recent hiring and you have had to change the central defenders following Rio’s withdrawal and Cahill’s injury.
- Rooney is not playing, Welbeck is just returning from an ankle injury and Defoe has just suffered a personal tragedy. England has no depth to spare at the moment.
- France has game changers across the park in Ribery, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Giroud.
- Blanc is a great coach and has the team mindful of their duty to perform at a higher level after their disastrous outing at the World Cup. They are solid defensively, have a long unbeaten streak and the only question mark is the potential absence of Yann M’Vila.
Pre-match prediction: France 1 England 1
I wonder if England can score in this match. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only way they get one is on a dead ball. Ashely Young delivers great corners and free kicks. Terry or Lescott to score for England and Benzema to get one for France. A draw would be a great result for England who can get through as long as they don’t lose this match.
I’m back. Life took hold for a while and post Euro withdrawals made me take a break from blogging. But, like Rooney, I’m back. And let’s start with my last post where I stated very clearly that Ronaldo should stay at United. I want to revisit my logic and see what holds up.
1. He’s coming back to form now that his speed is returning following the ankle rehab. If he kicks it into high gear during the Champions League, he will once again be king – only and especially if he flatly denies wanting to go to Real since that nonsense has started again. Also, he needs to show more joy in the team’s performances.
2. Still stand by that. Now he has the Ballon D’Or. One more and he is at the top of the heap. And if they win a few more Champions League crowns – which they will if this team stays together – it’s guaranteed that he will be up there with Charlton and Giggs.
3. So Calderon is gone, Schuster is gone – and that was even before the season finished. Even faster than normal Real standards. And you still don’t know who the coach is going to be since Juande is only guaranteed through the end of the season. You will absolutely be the flavor till the next one comes around. And if Kaka is going to available, you might get played by Perez.
4. Still right. And United did win the World Club Cup so now they are also champions of the world. Whereas at Real you would be – well who can say given what impact you may or may not have had on the outcome. However, no quintuples on the horizon at Real for sure this year. Man U – get past Inter and draw Liverpool a few days later and I’d say you will win the league, win the Carling Cup, win the FA cup if you don’t play Arsenal before the final and will win the Champions League if you don’t have to play Barca before the final.
5. Still concur with my initial assessment. And with Berbatov at United, there’s even a better hold up man to distribute balls to you and to keep the central defenders honest instead of doubling up on you like Behrami did for West Ham.
6. Say you are staying and not going to Real right now and you will be a god.
7. Bet that. And then they will sign Aguero or the next best thing post WC 2010 and you will be like Figo once they signed Ronaldo.
8. All I can say is – Messi is a freak. He is currently like Jordan in his heyday. No one can stay with him. Ronaldo is lucky he is not playing in La Liga right now else he might not have won the Ballon D’Or.
9. Never mind that one. The way he is going with Portugal he might be back on the bench with Fergie in another six months though!
10. England is looking good though under Fabio.
11 and 12. Couldn’t agree with this more. Except you seem to keep on getting to win more trophies.
13. Kaka, Aguero and Benzema are going to move at the end of the season. Man City will throw around the cash and buy at least one or more stars – I bet Ronaldinho winds up there. Wait. This is not the time to leave.
14. La Liga is being propped up by Barca. Actually by Messi – note how they struggle when he doesn’t play a half. It’s now behind the Premier League and Serie A IMO.
All in all, Ronaldo, the answer is obviously that staying was the right decision. Look at the trophies you could win this year. And next and the next. The decision should be no different at the end of the season. But, and you heard it hear first, he will be gone after this season. And United, much as it pains me to say this, should sell him. Enough is enough. Take the 100MM – and make sure Real pays that since you have Man City as a counter to threaten both Ronaldo and Real – and buy Aguero and Valencia/Theo Walcott/Ashley Cole. I like Diego Capel as a left winger, but let’s see how Tosic and Nani pan out. Frankly, United could probably bank 50MM and let the chips fall where they may. If Ronaldo doesn’t shine at Real as brightly as he shines at United, where does he go from there? Inter?