France and England were supposed to lead the way in Group D at Euro 2012. They played to a somewhat underwhelming draw in their opener, though, and that opened the door for the hosts from Ukraine. With their 2-1 win over Sweden in their opener they are now in a good position. One more win could clinch first place in the Group and assure them a berth in the second round of the tournament. Of course, now they need to find a way to get that win — and their first chance comes here.
The game will be played on Friday, June 15 in Donetsk, Ukraine. Kickoff will be at noon ET.
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France is favored on the moneyline at Bovada at +110, with Ukraine at +250 and the draw at +230. The point spread is at Pick, with France at -210, and Ukraine at +160. The total is set at 2, with the ‘over’ favored at -125, and the ‘under’ at -105.
You could use a lot of different words to describe France’s efforts in their opener against England, and none would be flattering. Slow, tentative, reactive, uninspired — those would all fit. It was an unexpected showing considering that they were not only playing a major rival and their biggest challenge in their group, but England was clearly vulnerable with all the distractions and setbacks they have encountered. The fact that France didn’t jump out of the gate with all of that on the line has to make you really wonder if they are capable of playing at an elite level at all.
What stands out is that the team really misses someone like Thierry Henry. The striker is well past his prime now and isn’t with the squad. In his prime, though, he was the identity of this team and the engine that drove them forward to such great heights. They have a tremendous talent up front in Karim Benzema, but he is only 24 and inexperienced. Without Henry they lack a heart and soul, and none of the veterans on the team seem to have adequately stepped up to take over the full control of the squad.
While it is clearly easy to be negative about this team, it is still important to note that they are the more talented team by a significant margin in this one. Their depth is far superior, and at the top end they can outmatch Ukraine as well. They need to be certain that that advantage comes through, though, because their opponent is just the kind of team that could sneak up on you.
Things started out like a fairytale for the hosts. They likely wouldn’t be in the field if they had to qualify, yet here they are on top of their group after a big win. Not only that, but legendary star Andriy Shevchenko led the way by scoring both goals. Shevchenko, the captain, has scored three times more international goals than any other player in the history of the team. He’s at the tail end of his career now, but he clearly still has some fight left in him. In front of the rabid home crowd it was a great story.
The euphoria hasn’t lasted, though. Head Coach Oleg Blokhin was realistic that they only beat Sweden, and that they need to be much better if they don’t want to squander their fast start in the tournament. Shevchenko scared everyone involved in the team when he was in a minor car accident after the game, but he appears to be fine.
Ukraine should not be in a position to win this game. They just don’t have the firepower. The crowd was incredibly rabid in their opener, though, and should be even more intense following the win and when facing a team like France that has plenty of international hardware in their trophy case. Unlike the French, you certainly can’t question the heart of this team or the veteran leadership.
The two teams met last year in a friendly, and France came out ahead, 4-1. The French also won, 2-0, in a meeting during the qualification for Euro 2008. The teams played to a draw in their second qualification meeting that year.
Picks and Betting Predictions
I want to pick Ukraine. I really do. They are easy to cheer for, they’ll have the hometown support, and Shevchenko is fun to watch. Ultimately, though, they just don’t have enough to compete unless France really has an off game. The French should be motivated after a rough start, and will come out on top. I’d take France on the moneyline.
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