Euro 2012 odds: Group D preview and predictions
Group D features some tantalizing fixtures, namely old enemies England and France, while Sweden remains a well-known Euro football power. Co-hosts Ukraine will be out to elevate its standing among the game’s elite.
FIFA World Ranking: No. 6
Odds: +1485 to win Euros; +225 to win group; -146 to advance from group
About team: Drama, England’s football squad certainly cultivates it. Newly appointed manager Roy Hodgson finds himself in a public dustup with veteran center back Rio Ferdinand, who is angry after being snubbed by the coach despite the team’s injury-depleted backline. Add that to the loss of Man United striker Wayne Rooney, who is out for the Three Lions’ first two matches due to suspension and injuries to midfielder Frank Lampard (thigh), midfielder Gareth Barry (stomach) and defender Gary Cahill (broken jaw), and England’s chances look suddenly bleak.
Player to watch: With Rooney’s two-match ban, Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe will be counted on heavily for his offensive wizardry in the early going. The sublime forward has pinched 15 goals in 47 senior appearances for England.
FIFA World Ranking: No. 14
Odds: +890 to win Euros; +156 to win group; -211 to advance from group
About team: Under manager Laurent Blanc, Les Bleus have largely erased unsavory images of a mutiny under former skipper Raymond Domenech at World Cup 2010 by going 6-3-1 in Euro 2012 qualifiers. France is equipped with several elite scorers and play an attractive brand of football with Blanc’s preferred 4-5-1 formation. Karim Benzma, who scored twice in Les Bleus’ 4-0 tune-up victory over Estonia Tuesday, is the lone striker with midfield duo Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda providing exquisite service from the flanks.
Player to watch: A sprained ankle in France’s 2-0 victory over Serbia May 31 put defensive midfielder Yann M'Vila’s Euro 2012 campaign in doubt (speculation, though, is that he will be ready). The Renne’s standout and reported Arsenal transfer target is the linchpin of the France midfield and a perfect conduit to Malouda and Ribery. His presence is crucial to the Les Bleus’ European aspirations.
FIFA World Ranking: No. 17
Odds: +658 to win Euros; +578 to win group; +167 to advance from group
About team: With Sweden, there is venerable striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (5 goals in 10 Euro 2012 qualifying matches) but little else in terms of known quality - at least on paper. Yet the Swedes more than ambled through qualification, finishing second (8-0-2) behind the Netherlands in a demanding Group E. The two losses came against the Dutch (4-1) and Hungary (2-1). Manager Erik Hamren opts for a vexing 4-2-3-1, which leans heavily on Ibrahimovic’s talismanic skills.
Player to watch: Midfielder Sebastian Larsson is a proven goal scorer (9 goals in 40 appearances with English Premier League side Sunderland) has the creativity and could be an unsuspecting lightning rod in Sweden’s otherwise one-dimensional attack.
FIFA World Ranking: No. 52
Odds: +658 to win Euros; +415 to win group; +154 to advance from group
About team: As a cohost, Ukraine would seemingly have a built-in advantage. But this team is a shell of the 2006 squad that reached the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals. Age is a factor. Captain Andriy Shevchenko is a spry 35 while the team’s average age is 27 years. Prior to being named cohosts (thus automatic entry into the tournament) Ukraine had never qualified for the European championships (To be fair, though, prior to 1996 the Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union). As a result, the national side drifted through a rather undistinguished campaign of friendlies where it finished 4-5-2 with a 3-3 draw against Germany being a highlight.
Player to watch: Midfielder Oleh Husyev heads a Dynamo Kiev-heavy contingent for the Ukraine. With his acute passing skills and penchant for crucial goals, the 29-year-old serves as a vital cog in Oleg Blohkin’s 4-4-2 setup.
Group order: 1. France 2. England 3. Sweden 4. Ukraine
Value bet: At +156, France is poised to win Group D as England has too many uncertainties going into the tournament.
Longshot bet: Sweden could be the sleeper of the tournament. Having a flutter at +578 for them to win Group D would produce a handsome payout.