Czech Republic 2-1 Greece: Greece vulnerable down their left again

June 12, 2012
Czech Republic 2-1 Greece: Greece vulnerable down their left again

The Czech Republic had a very good first ten minutes, and that was enough to put themselves in a commanding position.

Both coaches made changes to their starting line-ups, moving their XI closer to the side that finished their opening matches. Michal Bilek started holding midfielder Tomas Hubschman, with Petr Jiracek on the left of midfield. At the back, Michael Kadlec moved into the middle from the left-back position he looked uncomfortable in against Russia, so David Limbersky came into the side at left-back.

Fernando Santos went with the forward trio that ended the 1-1 draw against Poland, so Giorgos Samaras started in the centre, with Dimitris Salpingidis on the right, and Kostas Fortounis deeper on the left. Santos was without both first-choice centre-backs, so Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Kostas Katsouranis played there, with Giorgos Fotakis starting in the centre of midfield.

This wasn’t a high quality match – the Czech Republic raced into a 2-0 lead and then sat back, preserving their lead, conserving their energy. Like in the first game, Greece improved after half-time, but were still disappointingly tame in the final third. Read more »

France 1-1 England: France dominate possession but creativity stifled by England sitting deep

June 11, 2012
France 1-1 England: France dominate possession but creativity stifled by England sitting deep

A match with little invention, played at a very slow pace.

Laurent Blanc chose his expected side in a 4-3-3, with Florent Malouda shuttling forward from the midfield.

Roy Hodgson’s side contained one surprise name – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the left. James Milner started on the other flank, and Danny Welbeck got the nod over Andy Carroll upfront.

As expected, France dominated possession (65%) and had 21 shots compared to England’s 5, but many were from long-range, as Blanc’s side struggled to create clear-cut chances. Read more »

Ukraine 2-1 Sweden: the Shevchenko show

June 11, 2012
Ukraine 2-1 Sweden: the Shevchenko show

The story of the tournament so far – Andriy Shevchenko rolled back the years to complete a surprise turnaround in Kiev.

Shevchenko was named from the start, despite speculation Oleg Blokhin would use him as a substitute. The rest of the side was as expected.

Erik Hamren made a surprise choice in the centre of midfield, playing Rasmus Elm alongside Kim Kallstrom. This meant Ola Toivonen started on the left, and Markus Rosenberg played upfront.

This was a peculiar game, where all the interesting tactical features were completely divorced from the goalscoring action. The goals were simply three smart finishes from clever strikers, and their nature wasn’t representative of the football played over the course of 90 minutes.

Shevchenko’s double was so special because he won the game on his own – it was Shevchenko’s superb runs and smart finishes that were the difference between the sides – he didn’t simply put the finishing touches to a dominant performance, he was the reason Ukraine were victorious. Read more »