Rob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at email@example.com
Euro 2012 Preview - Group D
With Euro 2012 set to kick off on Friday, June 8th, we will be previewing all four groups and schedules, leading up to the opening match between Poland and Greece. Today the focus is on Group D, which features co-hosts the Ukraine. The remainder of the group includes England, France and Sweden. You can catch every second of every match over on TSN and TSN2.
Edmonton - June 7, 2012 - For the first time in ages, England comes into the Euro 2012 championships without much hype surrounding them. With star striker Wayne Rooney missing the first two games due to suspension this side will have a hard time getting through the group stages. Never a side to step up and grab the moment, recent news that they will also be without the services of Frank Lampard, will make their job far more difficult.
While their roster is typically littered with high end talent, England is seemingly incapable of getting the job done on the big stage. With Lampard out, much of the pressure will fall on captain Steven Gerrard to make an impact from the middle but that would seem unlikely. With the club being as young as they are and missing their only true scoring threat for the opening two games, not much should be expected from a fairly inexperienced side.
To say the English have had questionable goalkeeping in recent memory would be putting nicely. With the emergence of Joe Hart into one of the premier keepers in the world, that can no longer be considered a weak link. Hart does not have the greatest set of defenders in front of him but he has one who is world class, in Ashley Cole. If John Terry can keep his short fuse under control, the veteran will help immensely on the backend but the Manchester City goalkeeper will have to be at his very best to give England any sort of shot.
After a disgraceful performance both on and off the field at the 2010 World Cup, France looks to rebound and once again take their spot among the world's elite. While the days of Zinedine Zidane are a distant memory, the French have started to rebuild what had become a disjointed roster.
With Karim Benzema back in the mix and coming off a strong season with Real Madrid, they do posses a top notch finisher upfront. Add to that, a very strong midfield that includes Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Florent Malouda and the French could be dangerous. Without question, this clubs biggest question mark will be on the backend. They are not overly deep and are led by Manchester United's Patrica Evra but like England, have one of the best young keepers in the game, in Hugo Lloris.
After failing to qualify for the 2012 World Cup. the Swedes went through a bit of a changing of the guard and are far better off for it. While still in transition, they have nice balance of youth and experience but due lack quality on the backend. This team still runs through Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the AC Milan striker is coming off another strong season, in the Serie A. That being said, Ibrahimovic tends to be underwhelming in such events and because of it, Sweden could be a hit or miss.
Which brings us to the co-hosts, the Ukraine. They would have been hard pressed to compete for a top two spot at their full potential but with half the team being hit a stomach bug, only days before the start of the group stages, they could be in tough.
This will likely be Andriy Schevchenko's final go in a Ukraine jersey, as the now thirty-five year nears the end of his playing days. Look for the former standout to leave some sort of mark...especially playing in front of the hometown fans. Midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko could be poised to have a breakout tournament, as the home side will definitely gain a huge advantage playing on their home soil...though it will likely not be enough to see see them move forward in the tournament.
Group D – England, France, Sweden, Ukraine
06/11/12 – France vs England
06/11/12 – Ukraine vs Sweden
06/15/12 – Sweden vs England
06/15/12 – Ukraine vs France
06/19/12 – Ukraine vs England
06/19/12 – France vs Sweden
Goalkeepers: Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Jack Butland (Birmingham)
Defenders: Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool). Martin Kelly (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Andy Carroll (Liverpool)
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (AC Milan), Adil Rami (Valence), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon)
Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland (FC Copenhagen), Par Hansson (Helsingborg)
Defenders: Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Olof Mellberg (Olympiakos), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), Martin Olsson (Blackburn), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion), Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), Behrang Safari (Anderlecht)
Midfielders: Rasmus Elm (AZ Alkmaar), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Samuel Holmen (Istanbul), Emir Bajrami (Twente), Christian Wilhelmsson (Al Hilal)
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan), Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), Tobias Hysen (IFK Goteborg), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen)