Can the hosts upset Les bleus
Group D: Ukraine vs. France
Friday, 15 June 2012
18:00CET (19:00 local time)
Donbass Arena, Donetsk.
With just a point to their name, Les Tricolores will be looking to get maximum points against a Ukraine side who have done well to amass three points in their first outing against Sweden. Ukraine’s ability to imbibe pressure from France’s attacking trio of Ribery, Benzema and Nasri will go a long way in determining their fate in the group. The deuce-ace were a constant threat to the England defence but were unfortunate to leave the Dombass Arena with just a goal for their efforts. Ukraine though won’t make themselves look cinch in front of their supporters in their second ever match at the European Championship finals.
Ukraine control Group D after the first round of group stage matches with three points to their name. Oleg Blokhin’s side will be eager to consolidate the euphoria they have created by winning their first game against Sweden. Andriy Shevchenko once again could prove vital to any chance of Ukraine usurping France. Shevchenko, only two goals short of reaching half a century of goals with Ukraine will surely be fired up for this although there are doubts about the fitness of the former Milan maestro. He was recently involved in a car accident in which he reportedly got away with no injuries. They also have the vision of Serhiy Narzenko, the impressive pace of Yarmolenko and the brilliance of Voronin. Oleg Blokhin has his work cut out for him if his team is to advance. An all-out effort will be required for the Zbirna to get something tangible out of this one. Ukraine will progress to the last eight if they beat France in Donetsk irrespective of the result between England and Sweden in Kiev.
France will need to impose their attacking power on the Ukrainians from the start and control the game. They won’t be short on confidence as the Ukrainians have failed to beat them in all their previous encounters. France, though, have failed to win in their two previous face-offs against host nations at the European championship finals. They have an abundance of attacking talent in the starting line-up with Malouda, Nasri, Ribery and Benzema. The French also have great personnel on the bench – Marvin Martin, Ben Arfa and Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud offering variety. France had more shots on target (seven) than any other side on Matchday One of the tournament with only one goal to show for it hence they have to work on their finishing. They are experts in the passing department having registered the highest passing accuracy in the first round of group stage matches.
In their last encounter last year, France won 4-1 thanks to a brace and an assist from Marvin Martin.
Italics denote friendlies.
Laurent Blanc is expected to preserve faith in the 4-3-3 formation employed in the opener against England with little or no changes in the line-up. Rennes’ Yann M’Vila could return to take his place in midfield ahead of Alou Diarra. Much will depend on the splendour of Franck Ribery who has scored three goals and set up two in his last four appearances for the Les Bleus. AC Milan lynchpin Phillipe Mexes will anchor the defence against the threat of Shevchenko and his cohorts.
France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris; Patrice Evra, Phillipe Mexes, Adil Rami, Mathieu Debuchy; Florent Malouda, Yann M’Vila, Yohan Cabaye; Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema.
Oleg Blokhin could make some defensive changes to the squad in a bid to cope with France’s array of attacking talents. Ruslan Rotan could be introduced in place of Shevchenko. They will try to discommode the French defence with constant crosses into the box. Konoplyanka was particularly menacing down the left flank against Sweden. Shevchenko’s aerial prowess can’t be understated. Three of the veteran’s last four goals for Ukraine at the EURO and World Cup finals were headers. Voronin, Nazarenko, Shevchenko and Yarmolenko will be fundamental in Ukraine’s quest. Defenders Selin and Gusev also have key roles to play as they will have to cope with the attacking scouge of Ribery and Nasri down the flanks. The sturdiness of Bayern’s Tymoshchuk will prove essential in the midfield where he has to slug it out with Malouda and Cabaye.
Ukraine (4-2-3-1): Andriy Pyatov; Oleg Gusev, Yevhen Khacheridi, Taras Mikhalyk, Yevhen Selin; Anatoliy Tymoschchuck, Ruslan Rotan; Serhiy Nazarenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko; Andriy Voronin.
“We can still play better. Now we have three points and we will alter things tactically for matches to come.” – Oleg Blokhin, Ukraine manager.
“Playing the hosts in front of their home crowd is always tricky, and the Ukrainians have a good team. I’m confident, though, because of how we fought back against England.” – Hugo Lloris, France goalkeeper.