Haven’t England had an interesting build-up to this tournament?
Managerless for most of the year, trying various players as captain, the former captain facing a trial as soon as he gets back from this, selections based on politics, injuries to key players, leading goalscorer suspended for the first 2 pool games, and now a squad built around most of the Liverpool side that’s just had their worst season in years.
You really couldn’t make this up,
On the positive side, for once the UK media are not building this side up. Instead they’re looking for those old turnip jokes and devoting their attention to the Queen. They will do well to crawl out of their group and make their traditional exit on penalties.
Random stat fact: It is 40 years since England beat Sweden in a competitive match.
You would think France should top this group, but as the cliché goes it depends which France turns up. They have a recent history of either making the final or not making it out of the group. In South Africa, they were totally dreadful.
But if the likes of Nasri and everyone’s favourite pin-up Ribéry click then France should have too much creativity for this particular group.
Like Ronaldo with Portugal, a lot of Sweden’s fate will depend on how Ibrahimovic plays. He’s a love-hate figure in his homeland; the fact that he refused to play for the side for a while not helping matters. But, like Ronaldo, he’s captain now which seems to be the current way of dealing with ultra egos. The plan is that he will start as a playmaker rather than the striker role he has for Milan.
Playing the hosts in the first match is not the ideal draw; but getting England without Rooney is.
The main thing going for Ukraine is that they hosts. 21 of their 23 players play in the Ukraine Legaue. And no trip to Dyanmo Kyiv in European club football is an easy one.
There are not a lot of household names here though. It’s one last hurrah for Shevchenko, now 35, who had such a glittering career before joining Chelsea. And in the midfield there’s the fantastically named Tymoshchuck of Bayern Munich