England’s Euro 2012 hopes are still alive as they sit joint-top of Group D with France. Here is a preview along with betting tips for their final group game, England v Ukraine.
After a dramatic victory over Sweden in their second Group D match England now only need to draw against Ukraine in order to secure qualification to the knockout stages of Euro 2012. But with a potential clash with Spain awaiting the Group D runner-up, plus the desire to maintain that winning feeling, there is plenty of incentive for Roy Hodgson’s men to go out and win their final group match.
Wayne Rooney is expected to return to the starting XI at the expense of one of the goal-scoring heroes from Friday’s game. Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck were both impressive on Friday night, but at least one of the pair will make way here. James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young are walking a disciplinary tightrope having picked up cautions in the opening two matches. Although it is unlikely to effect whether they are named in the starting XI Hodgson may be tempted to pull any of the trio off if the result looks safe towards the end of the 90 minutes.
Ukraine come into the game following a reality check against the French. The host nation’s spirits were sky high after Andriy Shevchenko inspired them to a 2-1 won over Sweden in a fairy-tale opener, but second half strikes from Yohan Cabaye and Jeremy Menez gave France the three points on Friday and left the Zbrinas staring down the barrel.
At least, however, qualification remains in their own hands. The equation for Ukraine is simple; beat England and they are through to the quarter-finals. The application may not be so straightforward.
England have looked dogged and resolute since Hodgson took the reins from Fabio Capello. A couple of defensive lapses against Sweden weren’t enough to derail the Three Lions as a newfound resilience within the team, coupled with an inspired substitution, saw England record their first ever competitive win over Sweden.
Hodgson, so far, has got his tactics spot on. The decision to play Andy Carroll against the Swedes was vindicated not only by his opening goal, but also by his all-round performance. Then the introduction of Theo Walcott when England were 2-1 down completely turned the game on its head. The Arsenal forward has long been touted as a tremendous impact player, and although I’m sure the player himself would prefer to be starting games it is from the substitutes bench where he can continue to be most effective this summer.
At odds of 11/10 England look good value for the win here. Yes the draw would be good enough, but the ‘good enough’ attitude is one that Hodgson will be keen to erase. England now have an opportunity to stamp their authority.
When Walcott has not been on the pitch England’s biggest threat has come from set pieces. If Andy Carroll is not named in the starting XI then it may pay to look to John Terry and Joleon Lescott in the goalscorer markets. The central defensive duo can be backed at odds of 6/1 and 8/1 respectively to score at anytime.
Whisper it quietly but England are starting to display all the hallmarks of a side that could go far in this tournament. Having slipped under the radar somewhat in many people’s pre-tournament calculations, perhaps 2012 is the year of the Three Lions.
England 1-0 Ukraine @ 13/2