Group D will take centre stage on Friday at Euro 2012, with a crucial fixture, that could determine the fate of the group. England and Sweden are both in need of a positive result as they both search for their first victory in the tournament. England opened their Euro account with a 1-1 draw with France. Sweden were defeated 2-1 by Ukraine in their opening contest.
While a draw wasn’t a horrible result for the Three Lions, Roy Hodgson’s side needs to improve their form, if England are to see the quarterfinals. England will play a conservative 4-2-2 formation, relying on a pragmatic, patient game. With Wayne Rooney still suspended, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck are expected to start as the two strikers. However if Hodgson decides to go with a wider approach, then either Jermain Defoe or Theo Walcott could make the team sheet.
Walcott could also be used in the midfield along the right flank, while Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker patrol the centre of the midfield. Gerrard was instrumental in the England goal, as he provided a gorgeous free kick to the head of Joleon Lescott for the finish. 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should start at the left flank.
The back four did have a solid game against France, so don’t expect changes from the France game. Lescott was sound defensively, while scoring the lone English goal. John Terry kept his composure and provided stern coverage in the back. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole will defend the flanks. Cole has been terrific for club and country in the last month, aiding Chelsea to the Champions League title, while providing England with poise and stewardship.
Joe Hart is virtually a guarantee in the English net. While he did concede a goal, Hart did make some timely saves against France, and is by far the best option for England at the keeper position.
The Swedes were very disappointed with their match against Ukraine and manager Erik Hamren has vowed his team will be better on Friday. Sweden likes to use a 4-2-3-1 formation, as they use the entire width of the field to form their attack.
Markus Rosenberg is expected to be the lone forward. The Werder Bremen striker laboured to find any space against Ukraine, and will have to contend with Lescott and Terry in the English central defence.
Lining up right behind Rosenberg will be longtime Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The AC Milan forward notched his 32nd goal for Sweden in International play, and will be called upon to provide flair and finish for Sweden. Flanking Ibrahimovic will be Ola Toivonen and Sebastian Larsson. Both wingers provide pace and flow, but their lack of finish is problematic.
Holding midfielders Kim Kallstrom and Rasmus Elm are both sporting yellow cards, and will have to be cautious in their approach. If either player is shown a yellow card, they miss the final fixture of the group stage against France.
The backfield went through some misadventures against Ukraine and will need to shore up their security. Olof Mellberg and Andreas Granqvist should start at central back. Martin Olsson and Mikael Lustig will patrol the flanks.
Andreas Isaksson was the starting keeper against Ukraine, and despite the concession of two goals, the PSV Eindhoven keeper should be on the team sheet for Sweden.
Prediction: This is a critical fixture for both sides, so expect a tight tense affair. Don’t expect much quarter to be given so it may come down to an oversight or a momentary burst of quality. Don’t expect much in the terms of scoring, but England do have more quality as a whole than Sweden. England takes it 1-0.
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