Three teams have it all to play for going into the last round of matches in Group D, with Spain and Italy waiting in the Quarter Finals. Sweden have only their pride to play for as their defeat to England means they cannot qualify.
ENGLAND v UKRAINE, 19.45 (Donbass Arena, Donesk)
A crucial win over Sweden has set England up for a match against the hosts in which a draw will be enough to seal their passage to the Quarter Finals.
Roy Hodgson has been marked out as a coach who picks horses for courses and so it proved against the Swedes; he called up Andy Carroll in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and changed the shape of the side to match up to the physical approach of their opponents. With smaller opposition and a returning Wayne Rooney, the expectation is that Hodgson will shuffle his pack again.
Rooney’s availability following a two match suspension opens up a number of options for the Three Lions; he could partner either Carroll or Wellbeck, playing the number 10 role or he could play with them both if the manager chooses to show England’s third formation in as many matches
The return of the \ace in the hole’ will have Ashley Young sweating over his place; the flamboyant attacker has not lived up to his pre-tournament hype having been largely disappointing in the first two games.
Another looking over his shoulder will be James Milner; while he has put in more miles per minute than any other England player, it was his replacement Theo Walcott who turned the game against Sweden.
Roy Hodgson finds himself in the unusual position for an England manager in coming off a win with a selection headache. He will be looking to keep his side focusses as the hosts themselves need a win to make it through to the Quarter Finals, possibly at England’s expense.
Heavy rain, blinding lightening and deafening thunder all preceded Ukraine’s rather under cooked performance against France, but their opening win against Sweden means the co-hosts go into this game knowing a win will see them through to the last eight.
France didn’t need to get out of second gear in a controlled performance but Ukraine gave themselves a buffer having three points already on the board and will have had their eye on what they see as a more winnable encounter against England.
A cause of major concern for coach Oleg Blokhin is the injury status of national idol Andriy Shevchenko. He is rated as touch and go to feature but with the co-hosts existence in the competition depending on this result, the Zhovto-Blakytni may well take the gamble.
If Shevchenko misses out or even features short of full fitness, the burden will fall on playmaker and most capped player Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and starlet Andriy Yarmolenko who has thus far only shown glimpses of his talent.
The Yellow-Blues may well see Yarmolenko as crucial to their chances in this match up. In supporting Shevchenko, he has roamed between the right and left flanks though they may look to have him one-on-one with Glen Johnson as much as possible in Kiev; he has the ability to punish England should Johnson be caught out of position.
It promises to be a feisty affair in Kiev with the hosts needing a win and England a point; though with Spain awaiting the Group D runners-up, all eyes will be focussed on not only qualifying, but winning the group.
Prediction: Ukraine 1-1 England
SWEDEN v FRANCE, 19.45 (Olympic Stadium, Kiev)
Sweden produced a comeback after a lacklustre first half against England, going into the last part of the match 2-1 ahead before eventually succumbing to a 3-2 defeat and an early exit from Euro 2012.
While outsiders to begin with, there was hope within the camp that they could cause the surprise needed against one of England or France to progress. After an opening defeat to Ukraine, the equation became one of needing to beat both of the big two to progress.
The attacking prowess shown in qualifying seems to have deserted them; in the two matches they have lacked fluidity and have been playing off bits and pieces. Rumours of dressing room divides will not have helped their cause.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is their star player and he has seemed to carry much of their threat alone thus far, and so it will again be the pony-tailed one who they again turn to as they look to depart on a high note.
Alongside him, Johan Elmander worked tirelessly in the channel areas but with Zlatan dropping deep, the Swedes will need a focal point to run at the French defence. To this end, rumours are swirling that coach Erik Hamren is set to introduce more pace in the side.
Having branded his side “cowards” after defeat to Ukraine, Hamren expressed different emotion after the England game, pointing to the positives and suggesting progress has been made despite conceding five goals in two games.
Favourites to top the group, Les Blues need three points to seal the position depending on the result in the England and Ukraine encounter, though a point is likely to be enough while even a defeat would not rule them out of progressing.
Laurent Blanc may have an eye on the outcome of Group C, but his focus will be on getting his side ready for the Quarter Finals; to that end there is a suggestion that he may rest one or two key players here.
Jeremy Menez came into the side for the win over Ukraine and the winger made an impression with his direct running, eagerness to create chances and scoring the opening goal. Mirroring Franck Ribery on the left, the pace offered means France are a threat on the break with Samir Nasri looking to carve out chances.
With Karim Benzema not yet hitting his stride in front of goal, Blanc has an important decision to make whether to persevere with the Real Madrid striker to help find his form or provide a chance for the only other striker in the squad, Arsenal bound Olivier Giroud, to gain some match practice.
Qualification is virtually assured for the French and they are likely to have enough in their armour to not lose this match; the key will be whether they have the drive to end the group stage with a win.
Prediction: Sweden 2 – 2 France
Tags: England, Euro 2012, France, Franck Ribery, Group D, Sweden, Ukraine, Wayne Rooney