Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro 2012 Preview – Group D

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoIn the final blog looking ahead to the 2012 UEFA European Championship, which begins on Friday June 8th, we preview Group D which contains co-hosts Ukraine as well as two-time winners France, England and Sweden.

ENGLAND: Best Performance = Semi-Finals 1968, 1996

Despite their status in the international game England still remains one of football’s great underachievers. It is perhaps for this reason, along with the fact that there are so many strong teams in this tournament, why the Three Lions go into Euro 2012 with dampened enthusiasm. Perhaps a downgrade in expectations could actually do the English some good as the pressure to perform in this year’s championship isn’t anywhere near as great as it has been in the last ten years or so. After all England have only ever reached the semi-finals of the European Championships on two occasions and even failed to qualify as recently as 2008. England qualified comfortably from qualifying Group G finishing unbeaten in eight games and topping the table six points ahead of Montenegro. It was against Montenegro, however, that Wayne Rooney picked up his three match ban, which was reduced to two on appeal, which will see him miss the first couple of matches in the tournament. In his absence the likes of Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll will be expected to step up whilst Theo Walcott will also be required to show that he has finally matured into a top class international.

COACH: Roy Hodgson

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 7

FRANCE: Best Performance = Winners 1984, 2000

It now seems like so long ago that the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry et al were setting the world alight with their free-flowing football and winning silverware. Twelve years since they won their second European Championship the French seem to be getting back on track following a turbulent couple of years in which internal strife and splits within the camp took centre stage rather than the action on the pitch. Under Laurent Blanc many fans of les Bleus will hope that they will show hunger and desire as well as purpose. Despite a shock 1-0 defeat the beginning of the campaign the French finished top of qualifying Group D by just a single point over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Franck Ribéry is the centre figure of the French team and with players of the quality of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri around him they will be strong in attack and could score plenty of goals.

COACH: Laurent Blanc

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 16

SWEDEN: Best Performance = Semi-Finals 1992

The Swedes will be making their fifth appearance at a tournament finals since they made their debut in 1992. In that year Sweden, in front of their home supporters, reached the semi-finals but were unable to seize the initiative against Germany and went out 3-2. Since then the Swedes have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals and not many expect to see them do so this time. Sweden, it must be mentioned, are a very capable side who are physically strong and resilient at the back. They qualified from Group E just three points behind the Netherlands and didn’t have to take part in the play-offs as they went straight through to the finals on the back of having the best record amongst runners up. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the undoubted major star of the team but much is also expected from 24 year old Rasmus Elm who is attracting some other Europe’s biggest clubs.

COACH: Erik Hamren

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 17

UKRAINE: Best Performance = Winners 1960 (as part of the Soviet Union)

Like their near neighbours Russia, Ukraine was a major contributor to the great Soviet Union sides of yesteryear. Since independence, however, Ukraine has failed to match the expectations of its public having only qualified for one major tournament in the last 16 years (i.e. 2006 FIFA World Cup). As joint hosts Ukraine will, therefore, enjoy its first experience in the European Championships and will fancy their chances of upsetting the big boys in their group. Veteran Andriy Shevchenko is hoping for one last swansong in front of his adoring fans but, whatever happens, it is a fitting stage for the legendary Dynamo Kyiv star to bid farewell to international football. Young stars Yaroslav Rakytyski and Andriy Yarmolenko have the ability to excite and to provide the firepower for Shevchenko and his striking partner Artem Milevskiy.

COACH: Oleg Blokhin

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 50

GROUP D FIXTURES

11/06/12 France v England

11/06/12 Ukraine v Sweden

15/06/12 Ukraine v France

15/06/12 Sweden v England

19/06/12 Ukraine v England

19/06/12 France v Sweden

Europe: New seasons in Norway, Sweden and Russia

Posted in European Football by peterbein on March 11, 2010
AIK Solna

AIK Solna celebrate winning the 2009 Allsvenskan title

It is around this time of year where most of Europe’s major leagues are just getting into the business end of the season whereas in some other countries the season is just about to start for yet another year. There are three cases of the latter occurring in Norway, Sweden and Russia this weekend and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” previews each of these championships ahead of the big kick-off:

SWEDEN

The Allsvenskan kicks off on Saturday afternoon with last season’s runners-up IFK Göteborg away at Kalmar FF with the record champions from Gothenburg hoping to begin to make up for last season’s disappointment of finishing four points behind AIK Solna. The champions celebrated the domestic league and cup double last season and, only last weekend, won the 2010 Swedish Super Cup and will want to carry on this winning momentum with an opening weekend win at home to last season’s Superettan (second tier) champions AIF Mjällby. Former European Cup finalist Malmö FF have been struggling in mid-table obscurity in recent years and haven’t won the Swedish championship since 2004. They hope to improve on this by beating GAIS away with former Sweden international Roland Nilsson, the coach of Malmö, going back to the Gothenburg side which he managed between 2002-07. Djurgårdens, who survived in the Allsvenskan thanks to a two-legged play-off victory over Assyriska at the end of last season, will hope to begin with three points over Häcken BK whilst newly-promoted Åtvidabergs will want to impress or, at the very least, avoid embarrassment by gaining something from their game away at Örebro SK. The other three matches on Matchday 1 sees 1999 champions Helsingborgs play IF Brommapojkarna, Halmstads BK at home to Trelleborgs FF and Gefle IF at home to Elfsborg IF.

NORWAY

Record champions Rosenborg Trondheim secured their twenty-first Tippaligaen title in 2009 finishing a comfortable thirteen points ahead of nearest challengers Molde FK. Erik Hamren, who coached Rosenborg to the title last season, will stay with the champions until August when he takes full responsibilty for the Swedish national team, a job he has been doing on a part-time basis since November last year. Rosenborg begin the defence of the title with as tough a test as they could’ve wished for; an away trip to last season’s runners-up Molde! SK Brann Bergen will hope for a title challenge this season with last season’s Player of the Year Erik Huseklepp hoping to make as much impact as in 2009. SK Brann begin the campaign with a home match against last season’s Adeccoligaen (second-tier) champions FK Haugesund whilst the other promoted sides Hønefoss BK and Kongsvinger, who qualified via an end-of-season play-off in 2009, play against Tromsø IL and Strømsgodset IF respectively. Aalesunds FK, who are coached by former international Kjetil Rekdal, begin 2010 with a home match against Lillestrøm SK for whom former Manchester United star Henning Berg is in charge. Stabæk IF, whose defence of the title last season was unsuccessful, will face-off against Odd Grenland whilst Viking FK start their season against Vålerenga, whose 2005 championship triumph feels so long ago now while in the remaining game on Matchday 1 sees IK Start play Sandefjord Fotball.

RUSSIA

Having won the Russian Premier League for the last two seasons Rubin Kazan’s main ambition for 2010 is to make it a hat-trick of titles, for the side based in Tatarstan have high ambitions to become the new dominant force in Russian football. Having beaten record champions Spartak Moscow by eight points in the 2009 season Rubin will want to take charge of the league from the beginning and they have considerably more match practice than their opponents as they have been in UEFA Europa League action in the last month whilst the rest of the league have been in training camps or playing friendly matches abroad. The champions’ campaign begins on Sunday, three days after their UEFA Europa League tie with VfL Wolfsburg, with a home tie against Lokomotive Moscow. Elsewhere Valeri Karpin begins his first full season in charge of Spartak Moscow, having replaced Michael Laudrup last season, and sees his charges begin with a home derby against Dinamo Moscow. Zenit Saint Petersburg, with Italian Luciano Spalletti in charge following the departure of Dick Advocaat, begin away at Krylia Sovetov Samara who were close to dropping out of the Premier League due to financial difficulties but got a last-minute stay of execution having attracted some new sponsors. CSKA Moscow get the show on the road on Friday night with a home game against Amkar Perm and hope that Miloš Krasić will continue the good form that he showed last season, especially in the UEFA Champions League. Two teams who hope to improve on average campaigns last season are FC Rostov and Tom Tomsk who meet each other this weekend and will want to better their 14th and 9th place finishes from last season. Three promoted teams will get their campaigns under way with tough home ties. Last season’s First League (second-tier) champions Anzhi Makhachkala, Sibir Novosibirsk and Alania Vladikavkaz (the 1995 Russian champions) play against Spartak Nalchik, Terek Grozny and FC Saturn respectively.