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Euro 2012: Group D Preview

KarimBenzema (Getty)

After the disappointment that was the 2010 FIFA World Cup, France has clawed its way back into the international limelight under Laurent Blanc, and Les Bleus are the overwhelming favorites to capture Euro 2012's Group D.

Behind an attacking nucleus that includes the likes of Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri, France, which enters the tournament on a 21-match unbeaten streak, eyes a deep Euro run to put all memories of South Africa 2010 in the distant past.

Standing in France's way are England and Sweden, two capable sides who have enough questions that hold them back from being shoo-ins for the knockout stage. Can England overcome all of the off-field distractions, on-field injuries, late coaching change and Wayne Rooney's suspension? Will Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic reach the heights of his game under the bright lights of the Euro stage? 

The longshot in the group is competition co-host Ukraine, which lacks the talent on paper to keep up with the other three teams but has home-field and fan advantage and will be trying to usher out veteran and retiring forward Andriy Shevchenko in a memorable way.

Here is a closer look at all four teams in Group D:


Schedule (Times Eastern)

Monday- France vs. England (ESPN,, Noon

Monday- Ukraine vs. Sweden (ESPN,, 2:45pm

Friday, June 15th- Ukraine vs. France (ESPN2,, Noon

Friday, June 15th- Sweden vs. England (ESPN2,, 2:45pm

Tuesday, June 19th- England vs. Ukraine (ESPN,, 2:45pm

Tuesday, June 19thSweden vs. France (ESPN2,, 2:45pm



EurosFranceTeam (AP)

PLAYERS TO WATCH– Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri, Patrice Evra, Hugo Lloris

NAME TO LEARN– Yann M'Vila. Nursing a fresh ankle injury, the 21-year-old Rennes midfielder may miss the opening match of tournament, but the Arsenal and Manchester United transfer target is one of the true rising talents in all of Europe.


Goalkeepers: Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).

Defenders: Gaël Clichy (Manchester City), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (Milan), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon).

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St Germain), Yann M'vila (Rennes), Samir Nasri (Manchester City).

Forwards: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jeremy Menez (Paris St Germain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).

OUTLOOK– Les Bleus enter the tournament on a 21-match unbeaten streak and appear to be the odds-on favorites to win the group. The injury to M'Vila is a bit of a setback, but there is plenty of firepower on this roster for Laurent Blanc to craft a winner and guide France on a deep run. 



EuroEngland (Getty)

PLAYERS TO WATCH– Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young, Ashley Cole, Joe Hart

NAME TO LEARN– Danny Welbeck. The Manchester United striker is not exactly an unknown commodity, but the 21-year-old rising star has plenty of responsibility considering Rooney's two-game suspension and will be thrust into the spotlight for a team with massive expectations in its homeland.


Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Rob Green (West Ham), Jack Butland (Birmingham City).

Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Leighton Baines (Everton).

Midfielders: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Man United), James Milner (Man City).

Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man United), Danny Welbeck (Man United), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham).

OUTLOOK– Between the injuries, the Terry distractions, the coaching change and the Rooney suspension, there are so many hurdles for the Three Lions to clear in a manageable group. It's looking like they'll be in a struggle for second place, and an opening loss to France would put a tremendous amount of pressure on the undermanned side for the remaining games.




PLAYERS TO WATCH– Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Martin Olsson, Sebastian Larsson, Kim Källström, Olof Mellberg

NAME TO LEARN– Rasmus Elm. The 24-year-old teammate of Jozy Altidore and attacking midfielder had a fine season at AZ Alkmaar and was a reported Liverpool target just a couple of months ago.


Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), Johan Wiland (FC København), Pär Hansson (Helsingborgs).

Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna FC), Andreas Granqvist (Genoa CFC), Olof Mellberg (Olympiacos FC), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion FC), Martin Olsson (Blackburn Rovers FC), Behrang Safari (RSC Anderlecht), Mikael Lustig (Celtic FC).

Midfielders: Emir Bajrami (FC Twente), Rasmus Elm (AZ Alkmaar), Samuel Holmén (Ä°stanbul BB SK), Kim Källström (Olympique Lyonnais), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland AFC), Anders Svensson (IF Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (PFC CSKA Moskva), Christian Wilhelmsson (Al-Hilal FC).

Forwards: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray AÅž), Tobias Hysén (IFK Göteborg), Zlatan Ibrahimović (AC Milan), Markus Rosenberg (SV Werder Bremen), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven)

OUTLOOK– The Swedes were given a favorable draw and have a tremendous chance to get through to the knockout round considering England's troubles. Much will hinge on Ibrahomovic' effectiveness on the international stage, where he has not traditionally been at his best.




PLAYERS TO WATCH– Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Andriy Yarmolenko, Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Voronin, Marko Devic

NAME TO LEARN– Yevhen Konoplyanka. The 22-year-old Dnipro winger injects life and an attacking spark into the Ukraine midfield from the flank, and he has had his name batted around the transfer rumor mill, with Arsenal among the teams reportedly after his services.


Goalkeepers: Oleksandr Goryainov (FC Metalist Kharkiv), Maxym Koval (FC Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Pyatov (FC Shakhtar Donetsk).

Defenders: Bohdan Butko (Illychivets Mariupil), Olexandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Taras Mikhalik (Dynamo Kiev), Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Selin (Vorskla Poltava), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk).

Midfielders: Olexandr Aliyev (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Oleh Gusev (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Serhiy Nazarenko (Tavriya Simferopol), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev).

Forwards: Andriy Voronin (Dinamo Moscow), Marko Devic (Metalist Kharkiv), Artem Milevskiy (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kiev).

OUTLOOK– The co-hosts look like the odd team out in this group, but buoyed by home support and Shevchenko's last hurrah after a storied career, they won't make life easy on their opponents.


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