With most teams not wanting to collect a first match loss in the Euro 2012 first round of matches, as expected in international tournaments, the opening matches saw many 1-1 draws. That doesn’t mean the games weren’t exciting, as fans across the globe were showcased with great goals and exciting action. Here is a look back on the first set of matches from Groups A-D.
(Group A) FRIDAY JUNE 8th: The opening match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw saw two men sent off, brilliant saves, and an incredible opening atmosphere for the tournament with the sides drawing 1-1. This was followed by the Russians dominating the Czech Republic 4-1, setting the highest goal-total in a match so far between the two in all competitions.
(Group B) SATURDAY JUNE 9th: The highly anticipated “Group of Death” played on Saturday, and though it may have been short of goals, there was no lack of intrigue and excitement. The biggest upset of the tournament was dealt to the Netherlands as Denmark capitalized on one of their few chances in a shocking 1-0 result in the Ukraine. In a tantalizing fixture Saturday night, Germany barley withstood the onslaught of the Portuguese to keep a 1-0 victory putting them atop of the group.
(Group C) SUNDAY JUNE 10th: Two of football’s most historic nations faced-off in an epic match that saw reigning European Champions Spain only able to obtain one point in a 1-1 draw with Italy. The second match of the day unveiled the tournament’s two smallest nations–Ireland and Croatia–who competed for the top spot in the group. The Irish were unable to comeback from a 2-1 halftime deficit, and the final score of 3-1 gave Croatia the most points in Group C.
(Group D) MONDAY JUNE 11th:The 100 Year War resumed Monday for the English and French in a 1-1 draw with neither team able to take advantage of multiple second-half opportunities. Ukraine finished the first set of matches with a historic 2-1 victory at home against Sweden. The overwhelming pro-Ukraine crowd set the backdrop for the co-hosts in a shocking second-half comeback that will shuffle the expected order in Group D.
With the first set of matches complete, expect to see more goals and more victories as teams become more desperate throughout the group stages.
Sweden v England – Friday 15th June – Kyviv, Ukraine (20:45)
Friday will see the second round of matches in Group D with England taking on Sweden with both teams looking for no less than 3 points. Sweden had a poor start to their Euro 2012 with a 2-1 loss to co-hosts Ukraine while Roy Hodgson’s England were content with a draw against a superior French side.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren branded his side ‘cowards’ following their defeat at the Olympic Stadium. “We’re not reaching the level we want to and that’s my responsibility as a coach. We didn’t show the courage we were supposed to. Only five or six players did. We all need all the players doing that. We were cowards in the first half and should have done more. I’m not happy with the team, I was expecting more. The players do want it very much, but we should have scored with the three last chances we had. We have to regroup together. We’re not happy about this because we were pushing for a better result. We have a lot to work on and talk about,” he said. It seems the 12th ranked side in Europe (17th in world rankings) had a bit of stage fright as they failed to show even in glimpses of the form they exhibited in the Euro qualifiers. Sweden started their campaign strongly, scoring eight goals in their opening two games without conceding once. A 4-1 humbling at the feet of the Netherlands soon brought the Scandinavians back to earth, though, but Erik Hamren’s men learned their lesson well and the wins soon picked up again. A hefty 4-1 victory away to Moldova followed, preceding the 5-0 thumping of neighbours Finland, letting Group E know that the Swedes were not taking qualification lightly. A 2-1 loss to Hungary proved a mere hiccup in the second half of fixtures, as the wins continued until the final match where the Swedes exacted a 3-2 revenge win over the Netherlands at home to put second place beyond doubt and end Holland’s 17-game winning spree in qualification matches. Sweden possess a player who if in the mood can change the outcome of a game – AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The trouble is neither his own team nor his opponents know what frame of mind he will turn up in, the one that scored a stunning goal in Euro 2004 against Italy or the moody, brooding one that so often has failed to shine in major games.
England’s match against France was one of a few concerning points, over losing the ball, defending deep and lacking sufficient guile, but ultimately it was a night of earning a valuable point for new England manager Roy Hodgson. The French were 22 games unbeaten coming into the match and England were clear underdogs. England had just one effort on target, bringing Joleon Lescott’s goal, compared to France’s 15 on target. Hodgson has played a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2, with Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker in the centre. However, it doesn’t look likely to be as effective without star player Wayne Rooney demanding the ball and pulling the strings behind the striker. They clearly lack creativity going forward with Steven Gerrard given a deep role rather than further up the middle to do what he does best. While wingers James Milner and shock starter Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did more defending than attacking. England will now approach their next two matches looking for the 3 points but Hodgson will need to change things if they are to get anything but another boring draw. He gambled with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the left instead of Stewart Downing, but it was a gamble worth taking. There is a muscular, pacy fearlessness to the Arsenal teenager and he showed glimpses of how dangerous he can be. England also enjoyed an impressive start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, which included a Jermain Defoe hat-trick against Bulgaria that saw them top Group G after two matches. But hopes of running away with qualification were dented with disappointing draws at home to Montenegro and Switzerland. However, following a comfortable win in Bulgaria and a narrow victory over Wales, the Three Lions booked their place at Euro 2012 by securing a point – albeit after taking a two-goal lead – in their final group game away to Montenegro, with qualification marred somewhat by Wayne Rooney’s second-half dismissal.
Sweden have nothing to lose and will start with another attacking side and go for goals from the get-go. England should stick to their style and keep it tight defensively. They scraped out solid 1-0 wins against Norway and Belgium in their warm up matches for the Euro and are tipped to claim a similar win here.
Expected starting line-ups
Lustig – Mellberg – Granqvist – Olsson
Larsson – Kallstrom – Elm – Toivonen
Johnson – Terry – Lescott – Cole
Milner – Gerrrard – Chamberlain