What: Euro 2012 Group D
Who: Ukraine vs Sweden
When: Monday 11th June, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: Olympiyskiy, Kyiv, Ukraine

Avoid Early Crash

In a group that also contains France and England, tournament co-hosts Ukraine have their backs against the wall as they attempt to snatch one of two qualifying tickets for the quarter-finals. This will be anything but easy, and having just three games at their disposal to determine who passes the test and who does not, Ukraine will need all three points against their Scandinavian opponents here; especially given the fact that they will face much stronger opposition in their other games.

This clash constitutes a return to competitive action for Ukraine, and tournament play. Indeed it will be their first major finals since the 2006 World Cup in Germany. A downside for the team is that they are yet to score against European opposition from open play at a major competition however, something they will need to change.

And after losing their last friendly against Turkey, with the players subject to food poisoning, coach Oleh Blokhin said that the episode was behind the national side, promising a different face against the Swedes.

“You will see a different team, I am sure”, revealed the former USSR player.

First Ukraine, Then the Rest

It would be foolish on Sweden’s part to have their head already on the upcoming encounters against France and England. Ukraine might not present the same challenge as the aforementioned sides, but every point will be vital in the group stage and on paper, those earned against the hosts could be Sweden’s easiest ones.

Speaking ahead of their competition opener against Ukraine, Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic admitted that all games were naturally important for his side, but that the first one will be a defining moment

“We don’t know if there is a favourite to win the group, but it will be exciting and the matches should all be good. It’s important to start well. I remember other final rounds where we did that, and we were able to just hold on during the following matches. And when we start off well, we become more self-confident."

Having missed out on the last World Cup, the Blue-Yellows have also to make up for their disappointing Euro 2008 run, where losses to Russia and Spain in the group stage ended the tournament for them early on.

Recent form

Ukraine 4-0 Estonia (28/05; Friendly)
Austria 3-2 Ukraine (01/06; Friendly)
Turkey 2-0 Ukraine (05/06; Friendly)

Croatia 1-3 Sweden (29/02; Friendly)
Sweden 3-2 Iceland (30/05; Friendly)
Sweden 2-1 Serbia (05/06; Friendly

Players to watch

Ukraine – Andriy Shevchenko: The legendary forward is in the twilight of his career, and this summer’s festivities are certainly his last chance to aim for international glory. He will be buoyed by the fact that Ukraine will be playing in front of their supporters, but this can only take a team so far as the competition gets tougher. Shevchenko will have to lead by example against Sweden.

Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The 30-year-old is without a doubt one of the best strikers of the modern era, having won titles with Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and AC Milan. But like Shevchenko, Ibrahimovic has never duplicated his club success with his national side. Euro 2012 victory would change all that.

Match Prediction

The hosts will be full of hope going into this one, but realistically, it would be a surprise for them to usurp England, France and Sweden and advance to the next round. Sweden are slightly ahead in terms of talent, and with men like Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and Ola Toivonen raring to go, victory might be hard to come by. Ukraine 0-2 Sweden.

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