England vs. Ukraine: Why It's Okay to Root Against Underdog Ukraine

Peter WebsterContributor IIIJune 18, 2012

KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 15: Steven Gerrard of England celebrates during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between Sweden and England at The Olympic Stadium on June 15, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Euro 2012 has been an interesting tournament so far, with a lack of clean sheets to keep the neutrals more than entertained.

With England having claimed a thrilling win against Sweden last time out, co-hosts Ukraine could be wondering whether they'll still be in the competition after Tuesday's showdown against their Group D rivals.

Ukraine claimed a 2-1 victory over the Swedes, who have now been eliminated, in their opening fixture. However, they were brought back down to earth on a rainy night against France, losing 2-0 in a comfortable victory for Laurent Blanc's side.

With both England and France on four points, and Ukraine behind them on three, should we be hoping for the unlikeliest of results? Should we want the co-host nation to stay in the tournament at the expense of England or France?

The answer, plainly and emphatically, is no.

Poor football teams going far in an international tournament is bad for business. It makes a mockery of so-called star players who demand much bigger paychecks than their counterparts.

England—a team often bombarded with press pressure in their own country—are enjoying the relaxing notion that nothing is expected of them at Euro 2012.

Roy Hodgson has navigated his way well so far, but the lack of experience in his squad and the timing of his appointment are not good omens.

Ukraine, on the other hand, enjoy the support of being the underdog host nation. Cheered and egged on wherever they play, they shouldn't really be in this tournament.

Since the demise of the former Soviet Union in 1992, Ukraine—as an independent nation—has failed to qualify for any of the subsequent European Championships.

Until now.

Their involvement in Euro 2012 is related to their position as a host nation. It has nothing to do with their footballing abilities. Would Ukraine have qualified for Euro 2012 if it was held elsewhere?

History would suggest the answer is no.

In comparison, England have come through almost 10 qualification matches and much hardship to get to this point. The Three Lions are here on footballing ability alone, and for that reason, they deserve to be backed in their upcoming game against the Zhovto-Blakytni.

Their underdog status gives Ukraine more appeal, but the real football fans will know that the blue and yellows haven't earned their place at Euro 2012.

England vs. Ukraine is to be played at the Donbass Arena, Donetsk on Tuesday, June 19 at 2:45 p.m. ET.


Tell me your match predictions by commenting below. Who do you think will miss out on making the knockout stages in Group D?