Euro 2012 Group D Day: The Group Of The Dead

Today’s marquee match-up between France and England feels like just another entry in the Grumpy Old Men movie series in some ways.

Two former soccer powers–one much further removed from glory than the other–go toe-to-toe like two curmudgeons fighting over the new (old) bird that’s just moved to the neighborhood.

They go at each other in a crotchety, slapstick and not always pretty way, providing great fare for all those watching.

If any nation is ready to break character on the “Grumpy” series, it has to be France where Laurent Blanc worked to great pains to distance the country from the calamities of off field issues that torpedoed it’s World Cup excursion just about two years ago. Blanc introduced new blood and made the old blood earn their way back into the squad. It was an arduous and pain-staking process and France appears to be the better for it. Of course, having an in-form striker (Karim Benzema) and players familiar with England’s style of play from reps in the Premiership (Cabaye, Malouda, Evra, Nasri) should benefit Zinedane’s lineage in this one as well.

While France holds the stronger poker hand, England is not quite departed it’s typical tournament drama. Alexi Lalas put it aptly when he said that “England being considered an underdog is both an indictment of how far [the Queen’s men] have fallen, but probably also a positive.”

The English, dogged again by another squad issue, have…hold up! Can anyone even remotely understand why England manager Roy Hodgson would willingly discuss Rio Ferdinand’s candidacy and lack of involvement less than two days before the opening match? Why invoke it? Is the English media just that harsh and wind-blowing? Who demanded a command? Why did one need to be authored.

England–despite Hodgson’s poor media calculation–probably do have the right manager in place. The former Fulham (and Liverpool) steward is no stranger to being an underdog and more importantly clearly recognizes that maintaining shape, playing direct and counterattacking football, is England’s singular hope to Euro glory. He’s aptly set up his team as such, playing Ashley Young in the swivel role behind a still untested Danny Welbeck while calling on Theo Walcott to burn up the right side. The industrious James Milner–who had a World Cup to forget–mans the left flank and will be called on to provide cover for the advancing theatrics of 82-year-old Ashley Cole–man that playboy has been out on the town, doing it right for a long time.

England’s keep-it-simple shape and disposition is further buoyed by the presence of a real man between the wickets this time, Joe Hart. Hart is arguably England’s best keeper and best dressed keeper since David Seaman and if he can come up aces England might just surprise.

Q-Bert’s inspiration…

(For more ridiculously hideous keeper kits, click here.)

The second match-up of the day pits another re-invigored squad, Sweden with TSG fave Kim Kallstrom up against co-host Ukrainian. That should be an up-down affair.

For TSG’s entire preview, click here.

Enjoy the games.

Oh and some political science humor:

59 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nelsonaoatl on 2012/06/10 at 10:20 PM

    love the grumpy old men analogy.

    I too think the England squad will fare better than expected. However, I’ve got France topping the group and winning this game.

    England will have to wait for the return of Shrek ahem Rooney to get their fairy tale ending/advance.

    But I’m no Paul el Pulpo so let’s just wait, watch, and enjoy!


  2. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 5:22 AM

    Joe Hart is our best keeper since David Seaman, no doubt about it. Some might even suggest since Peter Shilton. He’s only 25 and will get better.

    While Hugo Lloris is a very good keeper, it will be interesting to see how the triumvirate of Lloris, Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes get on. Their back line has not been that great in the few warm up games recently.

    We know how good their offensive players are, just glad that he can’t balance them into one team!

    With the conditions, perhaps Walcott and Defoe as impact subs?


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 5:26 AM

      Is Defoe back with the team after his father’s death? That would a great story if he was able to get back to the team and score a winning goal for them.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/06/11 at 5:27 AM

      Good luck to you today George. :>

      I think given your comments above and the way Hodgson likes to sub, Defoe if England is tied or in the hole today is a very good possibility.

      No Walcott starts?

      Also, this is Ashley Young’s Euro and Diarra is no slouch, but at least today he doesn’t get the M’Vila treatment like Deuce did which shut him down against France.


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 5:35 AM

      Good luck from me as well George. This England team is much more likeable than the current French team and a nice England win would hopefully send the French into another hilarious meltdown.


      • I’d be pulling for England over most other European sides, but against France? Heck, I’d even root for the Dutch.

        Good luck, George. Hoping that your boys make a deep run in this tourney.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 6:07 AM

          Thanks lads!
          Sky has Chamberlain to start (over Downing), which has to mean Milner starts too. I have said previously, cannot see Hodgson starting 2 offensively minded wide players. Plus, Milner is probably seen as a safer choice in front of Johnson for his overlap, and doubling up duties on Ribery.

          I am quietly confident about our Plan A, but am crapping my pants if we’re behind with 15 minutes to go and need a Plan B.

          We forget, France are under pressure too, considering their performances at the last two tournaments. After 21 games unbeaten, l’Hexagone expects…

          Hopefully, Monsieur Blanc will be wiping that oeuf from his visage at 20:30 CET!

          If we lose and Sweden win, we could be in a lot of trouble.


  3. Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 5:34 AM

    The issue with Hodgson’s handling of the Rio issue isn’t (for me at least) that he didn’t answer the question now but that he didn’t handle it up front. When the team was selected there were questions regarding Rio (obviously not as big at the time) and Roy could have made a bigger point that it was for footballing reasons. If he had even stated that Jagielka was really the backup called in to be the center back with Phil Jones as a backup as well then Kelly would become the right back option it would have gone a lot further to stopping at least fans having issue. Nothing would stop the English media because their favorite sport is destabilizing England especially as it’s not their favorite Redknapp in charge.

    The blame for all of this has to lie with the FA for their poor handling of the racism allegation against Terry.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 5:49 AM

      The blame lies with Terry and his inabiltiy to carry himself as anything other than a pure piece of human feces. This coming from a Chelsea fan…
      The FA is making the same mistakes its made for years in continuing to rate past performance in selecting and supporting its side.


  4. Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 7:15 AM

    Rooting for the French. Love that country, flaws and all.

    Still, I just feel bad for England, with all the injuries and all. What’s the healthy England Starting XI?

    Hart; Cole, Cahill, Terry, Walker; Parker, Cleverley, Wilshere; Young, Welbeck, Rooney.

    That’s a pretty interesting lineup. Too bad.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/06/11 at 7:55 AM

      Way too aggressive on Cleverley there DTH. I know you personally love him, but he has yet to dominate in the Premiership.

      As old as Gerrard is he’s a much better attacking mid who can help out if Parker is tasked with too much. Heck, I would even amazingly say given Lampard’s commitment to defense this year he’s not a bad selection either.

      Walker agree is a given but on the right..probably just a formatting thing. Welbeck hasn’t completely impressed me yet, but when you are big, strong and fast and can occasionally shoot, fair to get the nod (see: Altidore, Jozy).


      • Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 7:57 AM

        You’re right on Cleverley. Still, he’d probably be on the squad at the very least.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2012/06/11 at 8:04 AM

          I think he’s on the squad with a good year. Precisely what England lacks in the middle; his type of game.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 8:33 AM

          Cleverly has a composure in possession that I like, but has not done enough to force himself into the starting XI. He needs more minutes at United.

          For Brazil 2014, would not be surprised to see Barkley or McEachran. Probably too soon for Shaw.


  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2012/06/11 at 7:59 AM

    No surprises for Les Bleus: France: Lloris; Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Evra; A Diarra; Cabaye, Malouda; Nasri, Benzema, Ribéry


  6. The France left versus the English right. Glen Johnson…. prepare thyself.


  7. Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 8:38 AM

    So is Oxlade-Chamberlain England’s Juan Agudelo or is Juan Agudelo America’s Oxlade-Chamberlain?


  8. Posted by Jason on 2012/06/11 at 8:48 AM

    OT: Just saw Terrance Boyd signed a deal with Austrian club Rapid Vienna.

    I’m not sure how to feel about this, he wasn’t going to be breaking into the first team at Dortmund anytime soon but I’m not entirely sure this is big a step up from the Dortmund B team. Would’ve been happier if he could find a place on a mid-table Bundesliga side


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 9:03 AM

      From what I’ve read, the Austrian Bundesliga is about the equivalent of Bundesliga 2 in Germany. That’s a good step up for Boyd from the Regional liga in Germany. Throw in the fact that Rapid Vienna are in the Europa League and I think it’s a good stepping stone.


  9. Posted by sfshwebb on 2012/06/11 at 9:16 AM

    And that’s what happens when you have a defensive minded player out on the wing…sigh


  10. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:16 AM

    Oy. Anyone but Milner there…


  11. We’ve secretly replaced James Milner with Fernando Torres. Let’s see if anyone notices…


  12. Posted by sfshwebb on 2012/06/11 at 9:18 AM

    I would pay to hear Harkes say ” the entente hasn’t always been cordial”


  13. Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 9:26 AM

    I ceased to respect Milner when Cherundolo just vaporized him in the World Cup.


  14. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:30 AM

    I like an England side with low expectations. Best organized I’ve seen them in a long while and they can be a fantastic bunker and counter team. Not having Rooney might be a bit of a blessing as it will allow them to play tactically solid without his off the plot issues gathering the ball all around the park.


  15. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:32 AM

    I believe the term is….esprit d corps?….


  16. Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 9:32 AM

    Great delivery by Gerrard and a simple header for Lescott. I guess Hodgson was able to install his system in a short period of time. Now it’s time for his 2 bands of 4 to bore everyone for a while.


  17. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:41 AM

    The problem with Gerrard in a central defensive sort of role…and Hart didn’t look particularly like the “top keeper in England” on that…


  18. Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 9:41 AM

    All this Hart praise and he lets in a near post goal. I just hope that the English press don’t try to turn that into a Rob Green level howler.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 11:16 AM

      Hart looked very slow getting down – but I would like to see from his view, real time. Why Nasri was allowed to settle and shoot from there, with zero pressure, I will never know.
      Overall, happy with a point.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 11:23 AM

        Ummm…he was allowed to because you have one of the least disciplined and intuitive midfielders playing CDM for you. Stevie was lining up an 90 yd shot in his mind when he realized the ball was on Nasri’s foot.


        • Posted by sfshwebb on 2012/06/11 at 11:36 AM

          I will say this about Gerrard. His faults when playing a defensive role is when he waits for the ball to come to him. However, he did in this game, make some key stops and tackles during the run of play. It is a sad state of affairs when he is expected to play this role, but I would like to see just Scotty P, who played well, play the CDM and have Gerrard play behind the striker with Young in the next two games. Here he is much more intuitive.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 1:12 PM

        Watched the Nasri goal again. Even though it was his near post, I think his positioning was good – you’re being a little harsh on Hart considering the ball came through a bunch of players.

        If you going to lay blame, I’d look at nobody closing Nasri down and getting a block in.


  19. Posted by sfshwebb on 2012/06/11 at 9:42 AM

    they should have gerrard and milner switch roles


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 10:07 AM

      Good call especially since Evra doesn’t seem to be bombing much on Johnson’s side.


  20. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:46 AM

    You’d rather see Gerrard at the top of a diamond no? He just doesn’t inspire confidence in that CDM role.


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2012/06/11 at 9:47 AM

      True, but I like Young there as well. I just don’t want Gerrard as a defensive midfielder at the top of the box


    • Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 9:48 AM

      Gerrard’s a misfit for virtually every position. Arrigo Sachi called him a great footballer but a bad player, which is just about perfect.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 9:51 AM

        That’s pretty much right on…never heard that quote..another nugget from dth..


      • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 9:56 AM

        That’s a perfect description of Gerrard. It also explains why Benitez almost never trusted Gerrard to play in central midfield and was able to get such good performances from him either as the player off the striker or even out wide.


  21. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 10:20 AM

    Chamberlain needs an upgrade IMO. Just too nervy with the ball.
    And please no…freaking…Stewart….Downing…you lose defensively and offensively IMO. Still think speed on the flank is a key for them in this tournament…Walcott for Milner


  22. Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 10:29 AM

    Is anybody else watching the tournament using the Watch ESPN app? I’m getting pretty close to HD with it connected to wireless at work. Very impressive.


  23. Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 11:14 AM

    That’s nice that they are wheeling out Shevchenko for the ceremonial ball drop….oh wait he’s playing?

    If you google him most of the articles come up as expired links…been a while old boy.


  24. Posted by dth on 2012/06/11 at 11:55 AM

    OT, but the Scottish reporter who first unearthed the “Peter-Nowak-applied-for-Hearts” story is sticking by it:


    • Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 12:40 PM

      He’d be a perfect fit at Hearts, the owner there is just as crazy as Nowak has been recently in MLS. He fired Burley when they were in first place a few years ago, has off and on not paid the players.


  25. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 12:16 PM

    Must admit, I was a little annoyed by the referee. When we did have the ball, France commited so many tactical fouls in midfield, which stopped us countering and enabled them to reset. Apart from the freekick conceded, they weren’t penalised at all. From a French POV it was smart play. From an English POV, very frustrating.



    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/11 at 12:21 PM

      I thought he was rather too lenient as well especially since it seemed to be a tactical ploy.


  26. Posted by Jared on 2012/06/11 at 1:02 PM

    Sheva looked better on that goal than he ever did at Chelsea.


  27. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2012/06/11 at 7:04 PM

    Re. Shevchenko’s second goal – what the hell was the defender doing at the near post?


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2012/06/12 at 3:39 AM

      That was Captain Ibra defending there. Defended it just like it’s spelled out in “The Forwards Guide to Defending”…


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