Euro 2012: France vs. Sweden, England vs. Ukraine Previews and Predictions
We've finally reached the final day of the group stage of this year's UEFA European Championship.
With the other three groups having already wrapped up their play, football fans everywhere eagerly await today's fixtures, both of which are set for 2:45 PM EST.
A few unexpected turns have already taken place, with the offensively gifted Russians and powerhouse Dutch already being dismissed by their competition.
With the English, French and host Ukrainians all separated by just one point in Group D, Tuesday afternoon sets up to provide football fanatics with a heavy dose of mid-day entertainment.
With Group D still wide open for two of the three teams to step up and claim one of the coveted spots in the knockout phase of the tournament, you can be sure that the Ukrainian supporters will be a raucous bunch trying to will their home side through to the next round.
Let's take a look at each matchup, each side's key players and what the outcome will be in both matches.
France vs. Sweden
The French and the Swedes will kick off their final match in Kyiv tomorrow at the same time England and Ukraine will face off in Donetsk.
Which two teams will advance from group D?
With the French currently sitting at four points, after earning a victory against the Ukraine and drawing the English, Les Bleus can punch its ticket to the next round with a win against an already-eliminated Swedish squad.
While Zlatan Imbrahimovic and company put up a valiant effort (scoring a combined three goals in their first two matches), it wasn't to be for Sweden in 2012.
Rest assured, however, they will surely try and play spoilers to a talented, youthful and energized French side nonetheless.
Whether or not they will be able to stop the French remains to be seen.
With players like Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema constantly applying the pressure, slowing down the French attack will have to be Sweden's first priority before they can think about setting Imbrahimovic loose. Otherwise, they may end up scoring two goals in a losing effort for the second time in as many matches.
Prediction: France 2, Sweden 0
The French attack ends up being too much for the Swedes, while their defense keeps Sweden off the board for the first time this tournament.
England vs. Ukraine
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What a way to wrap up the group stage.
Host nation goes up against a stacked English squad in front tens of thousands rabid fans in a winner-goes-through contest.
Could football fans, no matter their nationality, have asked for a better scenario?
I think not.
Whether or not Ukraine, led by the seemingly ageless wonder Andriy Shevchenko, can pull off the upset and send England down the same road as Russia and the Netherlands is something only time will tell.
Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, and their fans, the chances of such an upset are slim to none.
For starters, their only two goals of the tournament were scored by one man, the aforementioned Shevchenko, against what has proven to be a Swedish defense that leaves much to be desired.
Secondly, their defense has also been exposed as an area of weakness, having yet to blank an opponent. That doesn't bode well, considering the English have already shown an impressive touch up front already, and will only get better seeing as Wayne Rooney's two-game suspension has ended just in time for England's final match of the group stage.
The hometown fans may help will the Ukrainian squad to keeping this one tight, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Ukrainians come out on top and advance to the knockout stage.
Prediction: England 3, Ukraine 1
The return of Wayne Rooney, along with the rest of England's potent attack are just too much to handle for the host nation in Donetsk. Shevchenko does manage to net a goal in his final international cap against a shaky English defense.
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