Euro 2012 Group D: England's opponents

 

France: Fifa ranking 16

Amanager can make a big difference. Two years ago France suffered one of the worst disgraces of their sporting history as the squad at the World Cup in South Africa mutinied against Raymond Domenech and, as in 2002, went home with just one point.

But under the management of Laurent Blanc the rancour has been left behind. France are unbeaten in 20 games, and go into this tournament with more unity and confidence than they have had for years.

Much of it owes to Blanc: there was strikingly little respect for Domenech, but it is difficult not to admire a member of the 1998 World Cup-winning side, who also won the title as coach of Bordeaux. Blanc has picked players discarded by Domenech, building around that exceptional generation of players born in 1987, heralded ever since they won the European Under-17 Championship in 2004.

Of them, Karim Benzema is now the attack leader, and probably the world's best old-fashioned centre-forward. Behind him, Samir Nasri and Hatem Ben Arfa have both had arguably their best seasons yet, while Jeremy Menez, a rival to Ben Arfa for a place on the right-wing, has done well at Paris St-Germain.

There is experience, too: Patrice Evra and Franck Ribéry have been forgiven for the 2010 revolution, while Philippe Mexès should provide a steady foundation at centre-back. They were good rather than very good in qualifying, but they undoubtedly have the talent to win Group D by a distance and then go deep into the later stages.

Manager: Laurent Blanc The veteran defender has brought the same class and calm to management as he did to his great playing career.

Tournament odds 10-1.

Squad:

1. Hugo Lloris Goalkeeper (Lyons)
2. Mathieu Debuchy Defender (Lille)
3. Patrice Evra Defender (Manchester United)
4. Adil Rami Defender (Valencia)
5. Philippe Mexès Defender (Milan)
6. Yohan Cabaye Midfielder (Newcastle United)
7. Franck Ribéry Midfielder (Bayern Munich)
8. Mathieu Valbuena Striker (Marseilles)
9. Olivier Giroud Striker (Montpellier)
10. Karim Benzema Striker (Real Madrid)
11. Samir Nasri Midfielder (Manchester City)
12. Blaise Matuidi Midfielder (Paris Saint-Germain)
13. Anthony Réveillère Defender (Lyons)
14. Jérémy Menez Striker (Paris Saint-Germain)
15. Florent Malouda Midfielder (Chelsea)
16. Steve Mandanda Goalkeeper (Marseilles)
17. Yann M'Vila Midfielder (Rennes)
18. Alou Diarra Midfielder (Marseilles)
19. Marvin Martin Midfielder (Sochaux)
20. Hatem Ben Arfa Midfielder (Newcastle United)
21. Laurent Koscielny Defender (Arsenal)
22. Gaël Clichy Defender (Marseilles)
23. Cédric Carrasso Goalkeeper (Bordeaux)

Euros record: Qualified Eight times. Best Winners (twice).

Ukraine Fifa ranking 50

Oleg Blokhin has been a football icon in Ukraine for years. He is one of the best players the country has produced, winning the Ballon d'Or in 1975 before dragging Ukraine to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup. His status should be unimprovable, but a repeat this year, on home soil, would do it.

Blokhin was called for after the departures of three other managers in the last two years. With no qualification process there has been little purpose or direction to the Ukraine side, and it was not until a 3-3 draw in a friendly with Germany last November that there appeared any positive plan of how Ukraine were meant to play.

Their strengths lie in attack. The headline name, of course, is Andrei Shevchenko (below), Blokhin's rival as Ukraine's greatest player and still going strong in his second spell at Dynamo Kiev. It is not just grizzled experience, though, even with the slightly less old but certainly less legendary Andrei Voronin in the squad.

There are two notable 22-year-olds: first Andrei Yarmolenko, a powerful left-sided forward, learning from Shevchenko at Kiev. Then there is the thrilling little winger Yevhen Konoplyanka.

This Ukraine team, roared on by a partisan crowd at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, should have no problem scoring. Keeping them out might be harder. Their goalkeeper, Andrei Dikan, is injured while senior centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy has also struggled. The replacements lack quality and organisation. In a group containing Wayne Rooney, Karim Benzema and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it might cost them.

Manager: Oleg Blokhin A legendary old centre-forward for Dynamo Kiev and the USSR through the 1970s and 80s, now in his second spell as Ukraine manager.

Tournament odds 50-1.

Squad:

1. Maksym Koval Goalkeeper (Dynamo Kiev)
2. Yevhen Selin Defender (Vorskla Poltava)
3. Yevhen Khacheridi Defender (Dynamo Kiev)
4. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk Midfielder (Bayern M)
5. Oleksandr Kucher Defender (Sh'ktar Donetsk)
6. Denys Harmash Midfielder (Dynamo Kiev)
7. Andrei Shevchenko Striker (Dynamo Kiev)
8. Oleksandr Aliyev Midfielder (Dynamo Kiev)
9. Oleh Husyev Midfielder (Dynamo Kiev)
10. Andrei Voronin Striker (Dynamo Moscow)
11. Andrei Yarmolenko Striker (Dynamo Kiev)
12. Andrei Pyatov Goalkeeper (Sh'ktar Donetsk)
13. Vyacheslav Shevchuk Defender (S Donetsk)
14. Ruslan Rotan Midfielder (Dnipro D'petrovsk)
15. Artem Milevskiy Striker (Dynamo Kiev)
16. Yevhen Seleznyov Striker (Shakhtar Donetsk)
17. Taras Mykhalyk Defender (Dynamo Kiev)
18. Sergei Nazarenko Midfielder (T'ya Simferopol)
19. Yevhen Konoplyanka Midfielder (Dnipro D'rovsk)
20. Yaroslav Rakitskiy Defender (S Donetsk)
21. Bohdan Butko Defender (Illichivets Mariupol)
22. Marko Devych Striker (Metalist Kharkiv)
23. Oleksandr Horyainov Goalkeeper (M Kharkiv)

Euros record: Qualified Once. Best n/a.

Sweden Fifa ranking 17

There is still only one man who matters in Swedish football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the great title-winner, opinion-divider and national icon is as important as ever to the Swedish team.

Since Sweden's last major tournament, Euro 2008, Ibrahimovic has taken a break from international football, returned, been made captain, missed the crucial qualification game through suspension, and then come back in a new position designed to get the best out of him.

But with Freddie Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson having long left the scene, Ibrahimovic is the lone star in this side, a player in a different category to his team-mates. After years as the lone front man, he has recently been moved into a withdrawn role, behind the slightly blunter force of Johan Elmander up front. This was a reaction to Elmander's goals in the game against the Netherlands which sent Sweden to Euro 2012, but it should allow Ibrahimovic the time and space to start moves as well as finish them.

The switch makes sense in the context of Erik Hamren, the new manager who has replaced Lars Lagerback's pragmatic style with something more exciting. Martin Olsson can attack up and down the left flank from full-back, while Kim Kallstrom and Sebastian Larsson should provide ideas and energy from midfield. Hamren's 4-2-3-1 approach has been very popular with supporters who had grown tired with Lagerback's conservative ways.

The defence does not match up quite as well: there is no reliable partner for Olof Mellberg. But there should still be enough to prevent an Anglo-French procession into the last eight.

Manager: Erik Hamren He won cups in Sweden and titles in Denmark and Norway before reinvigorating Sweden with his attacking approach.

Tournament odds 66-1.

Squad:

1. Andreas Isaksson Goalkeeper (PSV Eindhoven)
2. Mikael Lustig Defender (Celtic)
3. Olof Mellberg Defender (Olympiakos)
4. Andreas Granqvist Defender (Genoa)
5. Martin Olsson Defender (Blackburn Rovers)
6. Rasmus Elm Midfielder (AZ Alkmaar)
7. Sebastian Larsson Midfielder (Sunderland)
8. Anders Svensson Midfielder (Elfsborg)
9. Kim Kallstrom Midfielder (Lyons)
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic Striker (Milan)
11. Johan Elmander Striker (Galatasaray)
12. Johan Wiland Goalkeeper (Copenhagen)
13. Jonas Olsson Defender (West Bromwich Albion)
14. Tobias Hysen Striker (Gothenburg)
15. Mikael Antonsson Defender (Bologna)
16. Pontus Wernbloom Midfielder (CSKA Moscow)
17. Behrang Safari Defender (Anderlecht)
18. Samuel Holmen Midfielder (Istanbul BB)
19. Emir Bajrami Midfielder (Twente)
20. Ola Toivonen Striker (PSV Eindhoven)
21. Christian Wilhelmsson Midfielder (Al-Hilal)
22. Markus Rosenberg Striker (Werder Bremen)
23. Par Hansson Goalkeeper (Helsingborg)

Euros record: Qualified Five times. Best Semi-finalists (1992).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future