Euro 2012: Sweden Will Be Surprise Runner-Up in Group D

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIJune 7, 2012

ZAGREB, CROATIA - FEBRUARY 29:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden during the International Friendly between Croatia and Sweden at the Maksimir Stadium on February 29, 2012 in Zagreb, Croatia.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The Swedish national team is looking to capitalize on a colossal opportunity to make it out of the group stage at the 2012 European Championship.

They've drawn Group D, along with France, England and Ukraine. That's a fairly fortunate line-up and England will be without a suspended Wayne Rooney for the first two matches of the competition.

France is coming into the tournament playing great football, suffering defeats in just two of its last 20 matches, but thankfully for Sweden, two teams per group advance to the knockout stage. They are likely to win the group with the superior talent they possess and the momentum they have put together heading in.

Ukraine qualified automatically after being named the co-host of the tournament with Poland. They notched draws against the Netherlands and Germany in friendly matches leading up to the tournament, but the two teams surely weren't at their best in meaningless, non-competitive games.

Sweden, on the other hand, grabbed a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands that resulted in their automatic qualifying for the Euro Cup as the best runner-up. They ran through their competition, scoring 31 goals in just 10 games.

The X-factor for the Swedes will be none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The AC Milan striker scored 33 goals for his club this season and if he is able to equal that performance in the group stage, Sweden will surely be able to outclass the undermanned England squad to grab the second-place spot behind the French.

The only thing left to determine is, which Ibrahimovic will come out to play at the European Championships? Will it be the precision passing, perfect through ball playing, murderous finisher version of Ibrahimovic? Or will it be the pouty version who can't (or refuses) to get anything productive done on the pitch.

The Swedes have drawn the perfect schedule for the tournament. They start off with Ukraine, who will be led by Andriy Shevchenko and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. Those two would be much scarier opponents a few years ago than they are now. They're no bums, but they aren't the players they once were.

England is the second opponent they face, and they will be without Rooney. That's a huge boost for them, as the Three Lions don't have anybody else on their roster who can score like Rooney can. All Sweden has to do is draw England, and they'll have the inside track to the knockout round.

Many people are turning a blind eye to the fact that England just got a new manager after the departure of Fabio Capello. Roy Hodgson is a good boss, but that doesn't mean he's going to have immediate success with this squad at the Euro Cup. Sometimes it takes quite awhile to work out the kinks of a new coach, and that won't bode well for England.

England's loss is Sweden's gain, and the Blagult have an upset on their mind. Don't be surprised if the English suffer another failure in a major international tournament, this time at the hands of Sweden.