Euro 2012 preview: Ukraine v Sweden

Group D, Kiev, kick-off 7.45pm (coverage starts 7pm BBC1)


Two of the tournament’s less-fancied teams, in a match where England fans will be rooting for a draw! It doesn’t sound like must-see TV, but there could be goals in this. Before Ireland’s comical turn against Croatia there was a good case to be made for Ukraine being the weakest team at Euro 2012, despite their home advantage: they’re ponderous at the back, they’ve had almost as many injuries as England, ten of them spent last week vomiting after food poisoning tore through the training camp, and their only superstar player, Andrei Shevchenko, is old. On the other hand, they’ve got nippy wingers and they should know each other well, as almost all of them play either for Dinamo Kiev or Shakhtar Donetsk.


Sweden are much more attacking than in previous years, with plenty of familiar players for Premier League spectators: Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson should make the starting 11 on the right, with Martin Olsson of Blackburn in contention at left-back, former Bolton man Johan Elmander up front if fit, and the defence bossed by granite-faced Aston Villa legend Olof Mellberg. Manchester City nearly man Andreas Isaksson could be a key player for all the wrong reasons: in recent months, the first-choice Swedish keeper has looked dodgier than a furniture-store meatball.

STAR PLAYER: Sweden are built around Zlatan Ibrahimovic (above), who’ll either score a phenomenal hat-trick or tonk it repeatedly onto the roof of the stadium, depending on which mood he’s in. Expect him to play in the hole rather than right up top.

SECRET WEAPON: Ukraine’s 22-year-old Andriy Yarmolenko will cut in quickly from the left to form their biggest goal threat.


PREDICTION: Sweden rarely keep a clean sheet but should be far too good going forward for the co-hosts, so we’ll say 3-1 to them.