- England will look to silence their doubters and prove their cynics wrong against France today. Roy Hodgson has sent out a message to his players that he believes they are ready for the task ahead and that they need to believe in their own abilities. Whilst it’s unlikely they’ll play France off the park, expect them to sit back and try to contain France and hit them on the counter attack. Roy Hodgson’s previous sides have a reputation for being well structured and drilled. It will be interesting to see if he has been able to get his message across to his players considering the short amount of time he has been in charge.
- France will start the game as favourites so in theory should begin the match of the front foot trying to unsettle the English. Laurent Blanc’s side have been labelled a ‘dark horse’ at the Euros so it will be interesting to see if they live up to that billing. After their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign they have now gone on a 21 unbeaten run but Blanc still insists that this is a side in transition. He has claimed that their aim to is merely reach the knock-out stage and keep the re-building process going. He’s aware of the counter-attacking threat England posses so don’t expect France to for an all out attack approach. They will more likely try to build up play patiently to try to draw out the English defense to make room for their attacking players to shine.
- Ukraine’s players are said to have recovered from a bout of food poisoning that effected 10 members of the squad. Oleg Blokhin’s men already faced a tough task of making it out of the group without having a large chunk of his squad affected by illness. He will be hoping to start their campaign with a win knowing that a victory will get the nation on board. They’ll need the backing of the home support as Ukraine are heavily tipped to fall at the first hurdle. All eyes will be on veteran 35 yr old Andriy Shevchenko, this will be the strikers swan song tournament and he is set to carry his team against the more favoured Swedes. They don’t have the most talented of squads but do offer a threat on the counter-attack, yet there are concerns about how they’ll cope in midfield and in defense.
- Sweden will look to silence the home crowd early by keeping the ball from the beginning and scoring early. They have started to add another dimension to their play that is usually known as effective and dull. Erik Hamren has gotten the Swedes to play a more expansive game with quick-passing a new highlight in their system. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will most likely start in the hole behind Markus Rosenberg, it’s a move that allows Sweden’s best player to see more of the ball as he can become isolated for his national side when playing the lone strikers role. He has had a fantastic season with AC Milan and Sweden will be hoping he can replicate his club form on the big stage. They start the match as favourites.
- With so much hype surrounding the France v England match expect it to not live up to expectations. These big matches have a tendency end up as draws as the two sides approach the game with caution and risk canceling each other out. The fact that it is the first group match doesn’t help the neutral fan either. They both will not want to lose and would see a draw as an OK result. A loss in the first round puts a lot of pressure on the next match and neither team will want to be playing catch up.
- Expect the Ukrainians to start the match brightly as did fellow co-hosts Poland. They’ll be cheered on by their home fans but that euphoria will start to die down as the match progresses and as Sweden start to take a hold of the match.