Euro 2012: Sweden vs France prediction

The final game of Group D is Sweden against France. The Swedes are already eliminated but the French are flying and look like they could be a potential Euro winner.

Andy Hudson and French Football Weekly‘s Andrew Gibney look ahead to the clash in Kyiv.

Sum up the tournament for your team so far?

Well it’s all been rather terrible, hasn’t it? No points from the two games played and already eliminated – which I believe is the first time Sweden have entered their final match of a group stage without the chance to progress.

The pre-tournament optimism has been replaced by a hard reality that the defence needs quite a bit of work and that the forward players, and I include midfielders such as Ola Toivonen, Sebastian Larsson and Rasmus Elm in that there, aren’t as good as was first thought to compensate for the failings at the back.

That said, Zlatan Ibrahimović has been a bright light and has shown that he is a genuine part of the team – something that was hinted at before the tournament but had never been substantiated since his return from international retirement in 2010.

It’s going fairly well so far. Four points from six, a chance to top the group playing against a team already eliminated from the competition. The England game wasn’t spectacular but against a well organised back eight France achieved the minimum required. In the second game Les Bleus stepped up into at least third gear to pick up an important 2-0 win over Ukraine. You have to believe there is more to come from this side, well you hope there is.

Who has impressed you in your team?

Olof Mellberg was fantastic against England and Kim Källström battled in the opening game and, alongside Anders Svensson, was tidy in the narrow defeat against England.

But the star player, the man who was the one bright spot in that opening shambles against Ukraine, has been Ibrahimović.

England fans say that Rooney is Zlatan’s equal but they are wrong. Zlatan has shown that he can work as part of a team and has been instrumental in keeping the Swedish squad together during a difficult tournament. He commands respect and the opposition are genuinely worried about him. Perhaps Rooney could be that player one day, but today is not that time. Rooney needs to show he can get over disciplinary issues and the feeling that he can ‘let his country’ down at any moment due to his petulant attitude. This is something the Zlatan of old had; the new Zlatan is much more reliable.

The Swedish star has been heavily linked with PSG during the tournament and the wealthy Parisian club see him as someone who can help attract other stars in Ligue 1 as they look to win the league next season. Zlatan will be looking for somewhere else to play his football next season and his first choice destination won’t be Paris.

Alou Diarra has played exceptionally well for a player much maligned back in France for his performances in Ligue 1 this season. He has looked solid and composed in the centre of the midfield.

Also in the midfield the excellent Yohan Cabaye has continued his impressive season by pushing the French midfield forward. After scoring the second against Ukraine he nearly scored one of the goals of the tournament finishing off a brilliant team move only to see his shot cannon off the post.

Undoubtedly the best performer so far has been Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy. The right-back came into the tournament is a relative unknown but his rampaging runs down the French right wing have been a constant threat throughout the two group games.

Up against Chelsea’s Ashley Cole in the opening game, the 26-year old continually got in behind the England backline causing Cole to hold back and defend deep. Before the tournament Debuchy was linked with a move away from France, one or two clubs were showing an interest, now the list of clubs is growing by the day.

Who has been the biggest disappointment in your team?

I predicted big things from Rasmus Elm prior to the tournament kick-off. So far I’ve been horribly wrong.

Elm has looked short on confident and gone is his usual zip and incisive passing. Elm was horribly exposed against a Ukrainian midfield that ran riot at times and swamped the central pairing he had with Källström. There was another disappointing performance against England when the key to victory was a strong team effort. Elm failed to threaten the midfield of the English.

There is still time to shine against France but will he keep his place in the side? The key to that is whether Johan Elmander starts. If he does then Ola Toivonen could find himself back on the left of midfield, or Erik Hamrén could look at Christian Wilhelmsson – the 32-year-old is hardly one for the future but has looked bright when called upon in the first two games.

Before the tournament Laurent Blanc had the decision to start with Patrice Evra or Gael Clichy at left-back. Evra got the start against England but after James Milner and Glen Johnson gave the full-back a hard time Blanc made the decision to drop Evra for Clichy for the second game. It would be surprising if we saw Evra again this tournament.

It may be a little over critical but the biggest disappointment so far has to be Franck Ribery. After going 21 games without a goal Ribery impressed during the warm-up games, scoring three goals with three shots. Much was expected of the Bayern Munich winger in this tournament. For all his attacking impetuous he hasn’t really caused that many problems. He is capable of so much more, and if France want to go far in this competition he really needs to be a constant threat.

Strengths:

I’ve already talked about Zlatan Ibrahimović, and without wanting to mention him too much more, he really is a player who can threaten France. Other than the captain, I’d say that Sweden will be a danger with their set pieces. The squad has height and the players capable of delivering perfect balls into the box. Both Larsson and Elm have a sublime delivery. But the final third play has to be threatening if set pieces are to be won in key areas. Elmander has struggled for fitness as he hasn’t recovered from the metatarsal break suffered on 12 May, with Galatasaray claiming that he wasn’t fit for any of the tournament. This has resulted in weaker hold up play than what has usually been expected of Sweden and has impacted their momentum going forward.

It is quite obvious that France’s strength comes from their attacking options. Alou Diarra sits and holds and let’s a front five of Cabaye, Nasri, Menez, Ribery and Benzema all push forward and attack the opposition. Not one of them is stuck in their role or position and the freedom of movement is breathtaking when at its best. The understanding shown between Nasri, Benzema and Ribery when it all clicks is mesmerising, the one touch passing with the players all within a couple of yards can easily bamboozle the most stringent of defences. If the Swedish defence isn’t at its best they could be in for a long night in Kyiv.

Weaknesses:

Sweden’s defensive frailties have been laid bare for the world to see. Jonas Olsson went into the tournament in possession of a centre-back shirt alongside Olof Mellberg, but Andreas Granqvist got the nod for the opening game. An injury to Mikael Lustig saw Granqvist shift to right-back against the English and Olsson returned to the middle. Regardless who has lined up alongside the Mellberg – who makes his final international appearance against France – there isn’t a cohesive understanding evident at the back and this is a big fear with the World Cup qualifiers approaching.

Martin Olsson looked bright against England with some intelligent running down the wing, and Lustig is capable of doing likewise on the right when he is match fit.

As beautiful as France are going forward, defensively they are a little bit of a liability. You could see against England that when the Three Lions actually tried to attack the movement and pace of Welbeck and Young cause the centre backs Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes some definite problems. Then against Ukraine, one moment of intelligent movement from the 35-year old Andriy Shevchenko had him through on goal, with no defenders anywhere near him. Luckily Hugo Lloris was there to save the veteran’s shot. Facing Zlatan Ibrahimovich is going to be a huge test of Rami and Mexes, the enigmatic Swede is a wonderful player and his ability to drift across the pitch looking for space and providing a constant threat could easily be the downfall of this French defence.

Prediction:

Despite a Swedish improvement in the last match, France surely have too much for Sweden, right? The French midfield and forward line will face better functioning defences than the Swedes currently have and should create a high number of chances. Though will the French be able to capitalise in the air? Whether they can or not, I predict Sweden to fall to a third consecutive defeat and leave Euro 2012 as one to definitely forget.

Sweden 1 France 3.

After Spain topped Group C France will want to win to secure top spot and avoid the Spaniards in the Quarter-Finals. With Sweden eliminated already you would hope France would have too much for Erik Hamren’s side. The attacking players need to move the level of play up a gear and this is the perfect match to put that into practice. France needs to win, and win well.

Sweden 0 France 3.

If you think you can predict better than this then join in with Arsenal legend Ian Wright and his Absolute Radio show: Rock and Roll Football. Simply use the Twitter hashtag #WrightorWrong and listen to the show. Other predictions from guests and from Wrighty himself can be found on the Absolute Radio website. Absolute Radio have live commentary of every England match and you can listen on FM in the London area, digital, online and via your mobile.

Follow Andy Hudson on Twitter.

Follow Andrew Gibney on Twitter.

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  1. [...] You can also read our very own Andrew Gibney’s thoughts on France’s tournament so far on Andy’s site [...]



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