England and France dominate Group D, but with both ‘big’ teams displaying some worrying tendencies toward self-immolation, the actual results are by no means set.
Can Sweden or the Ukraine break through to the quarterfinals?
Out before it starts
This group is a challenge. It would come as no stretch of the imagination to see any one of these four teams finish in any order (ok, so Ukraine are unlikely to finish first). Are the hosts going to finish last in front of their fans? Probably not, but it could happen. Sweden look like reasonable bets – on paper they’re not as good as either England or France, but both group favorites have made a habit of imploding in hilarious fashion. Why would they stop now?
Medal of honor
Here’s where Ukraine slots in. They’re probably not good enough to challenge for the top two slots, but they’re a better side than they’re given credit for (unless we’re talking UEFA’s seeding system) and they won’t embarrass themselves in front of their home crowd.
Advancing to the Knockout Stage are…
England and France, probably. Neither side has looked completely convincing, and the good mood that’s swept through England on the back of consecutive friendly wins against Spain and group mates Sweden has managed to completely ignore the fact that said games didn’t matter. France, for their part, barely managed to win a group in which their closest challengers were Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania, and the last time they were at a major tournament the French managed to get themselves in such a kerfuffle it’s a miracle nobody died of sheer malice. Expect these sides to make it through, but I wouldn’t put money on either avoiding a meltdown.
Player to watch
Well it’s not going to be Wayne Rooney, because he’s suspended for England’s first 2 group stage matches. With Rooney out, the sexiest name – and the most interesting player – is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is the best player ever who plays terribly whenever everyone is watching. The AC Milan forward has the ability to take over games by himself, and he could easily inspire Sweden to a qualifying berth. He could just as easily (actually, more easily) do nothing at all and watch as his country falls at the first hurdle.