Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012: Quarterfinals Fixtures

June 21, 2012 — by Suman


The group stage is behind us–60 goals in 24 matches over 12 days–and now the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 are upon us. Four matches in four days, starting with the first kicking off in a few hours.  Here are your fixtures, along with a link for each:


Thursday, 21 June 2012
Czech Republic Czech Republic Portugal Portugal
Referee: Howard Webb (ENG) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
  • Zonal Marking’s Czech Republic v Portugal preview: “The key battle is likely to be down the left flank. This is Portugal’s biggest strength going forward – they have the goalscoring potential of Ronaldo coming inside, and the overlapping threat of Fabio Coentrao bombing down the outside. But this means they’re also weak defensively down that side: all four goals they’ve conceded have originated from that side of the pitch, and Ronaldo’s non-tracking against Denmark was a problem Paulo Bento should have resolved earlier. As it happens, the right has been the strongest area of the Czech side…”
Friday, 22 June 2012
Germany Germany Greece Greece
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)


Saturday, 23 June 2012
Spain Spain France France
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
  • Jonathan Wilson poses The Question: position or possession?: “The flaw of Spain’s tiki-taka is that a team can control possession or it can control position, but it can’t do both.”
Sunday, 24 June 2012
England England Italy Italy
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012 Matchday 12: Last Day of the Group Stage – Sweden-France & England-Ukraine

June 19, 2012 — by Suman3


We’ve nearly reached the end of the Group Stage. Two matches to go in Group D today: Sweden-France and England-Ukraine, which will determine the final two quarterfinalists. Already in the final eight: Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy.

The latter two claimed first and second in Group C with tense victories yesterday. Spain beat upstart Croatia 1-0 off a 88′ tiki-taka type goal: Cesc Fábregas with a looping lofted ball over the defense to Andrés Iniesta, who was just barely onsides, and who then played a square ball to substitute Jesús Navas, allowing him to blast it home unopposed.  But there were tense moments for Spain before that–most memorably, Spanish captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas denying Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic when it was still scoreless.  It was a crucial save, since a Croatia win, combined with an Italy win, would have see Spain shockingly eliminated.  As it is, Croatia goes home, but they certainly impressed in this tournament.

Italy finally won a game, 2-0 over Ireland, though it was also a tight game. Mario Balotelli added a spectacular insurance goal in the 90′–after which he was spectacularly gagged by his teammate Leonardo Bonnucci.

On to Group D.  Sweden is out, so it’s France, England, or Ukraine for the final two spots in the last eight. France or England advance with at least a draw–hence, Ukraine need to win in order to advance.  I’ll be wearing my Shevchenko jersey and rooting for them to do so.

Today’s fixtures, current group standings, and scenario matrix:

19 June 2012
Sweden Sweden France France
Referee: Pedro Proença (POR) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)
England England Ukraine Ukraine
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)


Group D

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
France France 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 4
England England 2 1 1 0 4 3 1 4
Ukraine Ukraine 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3
Sweden Sweden 2 0 0 2 3 5 -2 0

Scenario matrix via wikipedia:

Sweden have been eliminated.

On the last match day (19 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:

If: France win draw Sweden win
England win England and France1 England; France England; France
draw France; England France; England England; France
Ukraine win France; Ukraine Ukraine; France Ukraine; England or France2
  1. England win the group if either of the following (otherwise, France win the group)
    1. England’s winning margin is greater than France’s by at least 2 goals
    2. England’s winning margin is greater by 1 goal and France do not score at least 2 goals more than England
  2. England are runner-up if either of the following (otherwise, France are runner-up)
    1. England’s losing margin is less than France’s by at least 2 goals
    2. England’s losing margin is less by 1 goal and France do not score at least 2 goals more than England

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012 Matchday 11: Will Croatia Send the Azzurri Back to Italy (and/or La Furia Roja Back to Spain)?

June 18, 2012 — by Suman2


Though yesterday’s Group of Death final day had the potential to surprise like Group A’s did on Saturday, it ultimately worked out according to form. Germany finished off the group with 3 victories, while Portugal showed how pathetic this edition of the Oranje were–sending them to their third straight defeat, and back to a very unhappy Holland.

On to Group C. Ireland is out of contention, but any two of out of Spain, Italy, and Croatia could advance.  Remarkably, Croatia advances with a win or a scored draw–and a Croatia win combined with an Italy win would send defending World Cup and Euro 2008 champions back to Spain.

Here are today’s fixtures, current group standings, the scenario matrix, and some preview notes:

18 June 2012
Croatia Croatia Spain Spain
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (GER) – Stadium: Arena Gdansk, Gdansk (POL)
Italy Italy Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Poznan, Poznan (POL)


Group C

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
Spain Spain 2 1 1 0 5 1 4 4
Croatia Croatia 2 1 1 0 4 2 2 4
Italy Italy 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland 2 0 0 2 1 7 -6 0
Scenario matrix via wikipedia:

Republic of Ireland has been eliminated.

On the next match day (18 June), the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:[1][2]

If: Croatia win draw Spain win
Italy win Croatia; Italy Spain, and Croatia or Italy1 Spain; Italy
draw Croatia; Spain Spain; Croatia Spain; Croatia
Ireland win Croatia; Spain Spain; Croatia Spain; Croatia
  1. Positions determined by game scores:
  • if Croatia-Spain draw 0–0, Italy; Spain
  • if Croatia-Spain draw 1–1
    • AND if Italy wins by one goal or 2–0, Spain; Croatia
    • OR if Italy wins by two goals and scores at least three goals, Spain; Italy
    • OR if Italy wins by three goals or 4–0, Spain; Italy
    • OR if Italy wins by four or more goals and scores at least five goals, Italy; Spain
  • if Croatia-Spain draw 2–2 or higher, Spain; Croatia

The match to watch is Croatia-Spain. It will be a huge surprise if Italy doesn’t beat an Ireland squad that doesn’t have anything to play for (and hasn’t played well at all in their first two matches).

For Spain, it looks like Fernando Torres has solidified a spot as striker in Spain’s starting XI.  Here’s how Vincente del Bosque lined them up (and the subs he used) in their 4-0 roll over Ireland:

Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Arbeloa, David Silva, Xavi, Xabi Alonso (Javi Martínez, 65), Andrés Iniesta (Santiago Cazorla, 80), Sergio Busquets, Fernando Torres (Francesc Fábregas, 74)

We were heartened to see Javi Martínez and Santi Cazorla get some minutes. The next generation of Spanish football, and playing outside the Madrid-Barcelona hegemony (Javi Martínez at Athletic Bilbao, Santi Cazorla at Málaga; read this piece in Run of Play comparing Martínez to the incomparable Redondo). We’d also like to see Fernando Llorentealso of Athletic Bilbao, get in the game and lead the line. See below for video of El Rey León.

For Croatia, we wrote up the following sketch of their squad prior to their 1-1 draw against Italy last week:

For Croatia, most of the focus is on Tottenham Hotspurs midfield playmaker Luka Modrić. But their squad is peppered with players who have made names for themselves at relatively “big” clubs abroad: strikers Nikica Jelavić (Everton), Mario Mandžukić (Wolfsburg), and Eduardo (now Shakhtar Donetsk, previously Arsenal); midfielder Niko Kranjčar (also Spurs), Ivan Perišić (Borussia Dortmund), Ivan Rakitić (Sevilla), and Danijel Pranjić (Bayern Munich); and defenders Darijo Srna (also Shakhtar) and Vedran Ćorluka (Bayer Leverkeusen).

The standout performer has been Mandžukić, with three goals in the first two games. Cf. “Mario Mandzukic masks madness to strike right for Croatia.”

Euro 2012Germany

The source of Manuel Neuer’s Power – Revealed!

June 17, 2012 — by Sean


By now we can all recognize that Manuel Neuer, that strapping ideal of aryan idealism, is awesome. He may have let the Champions league trophy slip through his fingers last month, but not for lack of scoring a PK and saving a couple in the shootout.

Today, while ensuring his goal was mostly unpenetrated, he came out to collect the ball around the 25 yard mark and swing play to the opposite flank. “Why, those are the duties of an old fashioned sweeper!” I hear you saying. But these skills, and surely more, have been mastered by the German batter-awayer of balls flying toward his face.

What has made this young man so outstanding? Perhaps it’s the time he put in on training grounds at Schalke before his big move to Bayern? Or maybe it has more to do with his formative years spent at the Gesamtschule Berger Feld (whose most recent other famous footballing graduate is Mezut Özil – a man you’re sure to know after he won a prestigious Bambi award for excellence in integrating his Turkish self into German society).

But it seems even more likely that Manuel Neuer, that giant of giants, that leaping monster of man, receives his power from an eternal and supernatural source. That’s right people, Neuer has tapped the earth energies that were surely uncovered by the Bavarian illuminati at the turn of the nineteenth century. I wouldn’t be surprised if his DNA had been honed in a Mendel-style bean-crossing experiment for the last 10 generations.

Where’s the proof, you ask? Why just look at this YouTube video that reeks of validity. You can practically see the Eye of Providence emerging in the space between Neuer’s hands.


Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Euro 2012 Matchday 10: Who Will Survive the Group of Death?

June 17, 2012 — by Suman2


If Group B’s closing matches today is anything like yesterday’s crazy conclusion to Group A, we’re in for a doozy. The two unlikely outcomes–1-0 victories for Greece and Czech Republic over Russia and Poland, respectively–led to those two teams advancing to the quarterfinals.

The combinatorics of the Group of Death are just as convoluted as they were for Group A. Via wikipedia:

On the last match day (17 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:[6][7]

If: Portugal win draw Netherlands win
Denmark win Denmark, and Portugal or Germany1 Denmark; Germany Denmark; Germany
draw Germany; Portugal Germany; Portugal Germany; Denmark
Germany win Germany; Portugal Germany; Portugal Germany; Portugal or Netherlands2
  1. Positions determined by score of Denmark v Germany
    (a) Portugal; Denmark – if Denmark win 1–0
    (b) Denmark; Germany – if Denmark win by 1 goal and score at least 3
    (c) Denmark; Portugal – if Denmark win 2–1 or by at least 2 goals
  2. Portugal will be runner-up if they lose by 1 goal; otherwise the Netherlands will be runner-up.


6. “Euro 2012 Diary: Mathematicians to work out who qualifies from Groups A and B“. Betfair. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
7. Johnson, Dale (13 June 2012). “Euro 2012 Group permutations“. ESPN. Retrieved 15 June 2012.


The fixtures:

17 June 2012
Portugal Portugal Netherlands Netherlands
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv (UKR)
Denmark Denmark Germany Germany
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP) – Stadium: Arena Lviv, Lviv (UKR)


Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 9: Group Stage Enters Final Round–Greece-Russia & Czech Republic-Poland Today

June 15, 2012 — by Suman


The last round of group stage matches starts today, with the last two matches in Group A–meaning that we’ll have our first two quarterfinalists by the end of the day. It also means the day’s two matches are played simultaneously. So get your picture-in-picture ready–or put one on your TV and stream the other on your computer.  Or better yet, head to your local footy-friendly watering hole–we’ll try to watch at least one of the next few days at our local spot, WoodworkBK.

The match to watch today is Czech Republic-Poland. Poland will be playing in front of a partisan home crowd in Wroclaw, while Czech captain and playmaker (and GunnerTomáš Rosický (“the Little Mozart of football”, as we detailed in an extended postscript to this post) is doubtful following an Achilles tendon injury suffered against Greece.  So Poland are perhaps the favorites–but they have yet to win a match, and the pressure will be on them. For Poland the focus and onus will again be on the Dortmund trio–attacking right back Łukasz Piszczek, right-sided midfielder (and captain) Jakub (“Kuba”) Błaszczykowski, and striker Robert Lewandowski.  In addition, goalkeeper (and another Gunner) Wojciech Szczęsny returns after a one-game suspension for the red card he received in the opening match against Greece.

In the other match, Russia, a team that has impressed, should beat a Greece side that hasn’t. But the Russians have a reputation for losing interest and focus–and remarkably Greece would advance with a win.  For Russia the standout performers have been captain Andrei Arshavin (still on Arsenal’s books, but went back to Mother Russia in January on loan to his home club of Zenit St. Petersburg) and youngster Alan Dzagoev–who is, as Eastern European football expert Jonathan Wilson writes today, finally meeting Russia’s expectations.

See below for Group A standings and today’s fixtures (via, and below that a scenario analysis (via wikipedia) of which teams advances in each of the 9 outcomes (3 possible outcomes in each of the 2 matches implies 3^2 = 9 possible outcomes). Although it’s even more complicated than that, as certain of those scenarios bring into play goal differential (the first tie-breaker).

In fact, it appears that not only do all four teams have a chance to advance, but that each of the six 2-team combinations is still a possibility. No wonder writes: “I’m not too sure who will be more interested in the final round of group matches in Groups A and B: football fans or mathematicians. To say things are tight is an understatement. To say they’re complicated is a fair statement.”

Group A

Teams P W D L F A +/- Pts
Russia Russia 2 1 1 0 5 2 3 4
Czech Republic Czech Republic 2 1 0 1 3 5 -2 3
Poland Poland 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
Greece Greece 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
16 June 2012
Greece Greece Russia Russia
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE) – Stadium: National Stadium Warsaw, Warsaw (POL)
Czech Republic Czech Republic Poland Poland
Referee: Craig Thomson (SCO) – Stadium: Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Wroclaw (POL)

Scenario analysis via UEFA Euro 2012 Group A – Wikipedia:

On the last match day (16 June) the teams advancing from this group (winner; runner-up) will be:[1][2][3]

If: Czech Republic win draw Poland win
Greece win Czech Republic; Greece Greece and Russia or Czech Republic1 Poland; Greece
draw Czech Republic; Russia Russia; Czech Republic Russia and Poland2
Russia win Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Czech Republic Russia; Poland
  1. Positions determined by score of Greece v Russia
    (a) Russia; Greece – if Greece win by 1 or 2 goals
    (b) Greece; Russia – if Greece win by 3 to 5 goals
    (c) Greece; Czech Republic – if Greece win by at least 6 goals
  2. Poland win the group if they win by at least 4 goals (3 if they score at least 4 more than Russia); otherwise Russia win the group



  1. ^ Peter Katsiris (13 June 2012). “UEFA EURO 2012: The Math behind Group A”. Football Hellas. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ “Euro 2012 Diary: Mathematicians to work out who qualifies from Groups A and B”. Betfair. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  3. ^ Johnson, Dale (13 June 2012). “Euro 2012 Group permutations”. ESPN. Retrieved 15 June 2012.

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State of the Union: Arsenal, Polkraine

June 15, 2012 — by Rob Kirby3


The Arsenal won’t play a competitive match until August, but that’s no reason to cease obsessing and expounding upon the team. With two of our strikers, a few top wingers and midfielders, a couple central defenders and a goalkeeper in Polkraine, we’re fielding a mostly full team. No fit right back or left back, but then that was the month of January. This is familiar territory.

As internationals enter the final round of the group stage matches of Euro 2012 on different teams, some have excelled in Poland and Ukraine, while others hide their heads as they make their way to the exit.

In Group A, Russia captain Andrey Arshavin, Czech Republic captain Tomas Rosicky and Poland first-choice goalie Wojciech Szczesny have been facing off in a tightly competitive, if comparatively weak, group.

Current Zenit St. Petersburg loanee Arshavin has had a great Euro comeback, putting in some of his best performances since Euro 2008, with three assists thus far. Whether it derives from finally playing in his preferred position behind the striker or whether he simply feels happier and more comfortable captaining a side of his countrymen is unknowable, but Russia currently sit atop Group A and look poised to go through to the knockouts. A victory or draw against Greece would seal it, but a late game counterattack from the notoriously difficult, itinerantly attacking  Hellenic defense could scupper Russian hopes. Arshavin can help ensure that does not happen. He still has moments of listless apathy, such as the second half against Poland, and would never dream of tracking back, but the mercurial Little Tsar still shows the moments of genius that made Arsenal fans so excited to sign him in January 2009.

Finally fit and in form again after so long, Rosicky unfortunately suffered an Achilles issue in the second match of the group stage and looks out for the count no matter what happens in the final match against Poland. Hopefully he can recover in time for the new season, but few players shake off Achilles problems without long layoffs. But having spent abundant time at adjoining physio tables with fellow rehab regular Thomas Vermaelen, he probably already knows this all too well. Sadly for Tomas, his tournament is likely over.

Wojciech Szczesny got sent off in the opening match of the tournament for a clumsy penalty but returns for the winner-takes-all match against the Czech Republic, in a bid to salvage his rep on home soil and help Poland progress to the quarterfinals, after missing the draw against Russia from suspension. From a purely selfish, club-centric point of view, hopefully he can put in a good showing even if cohost Poland ultimately fails, so that no psychological hangover haunts the big keeper in the Arsenal campaign ahead. Sadly for club and country backup Lukasz Fabianski, even with Szczesny out of the picture an injury keeps him from getting his big moment on the home stage, especially as he actively seeks pastures new and desperately needs the visibility. You can’t help but feel a bit bad for the guy. Until you remember why he got bumped down to number two and get your blood pressure up all over again. And bay wolfishly for his blood.

In the Group B group of death, Arsenal captain Robin van Persie, Arsenal headache Nicklas Bendtner and new signing Lukas Podolski have been facing off, while the recovering Per Mertesacker (ankle) has looked on from his seat on the uncomfortable Teutonic bench.

Nicklas Bendtner, a.k.a. the Great Dane, a.k.a. the best striker in the history of scoring goals, had a mostly anonymous match in the surprise victory over Holland but then clawed and headed Denmark even with Portugal on Wednesday with a handy brace before the Portuguese snatched the crucial late goal. If last year’s Sunderland loanee can put in an impressive shift against Germany in the final match of the group, all while resisting the urge to drop trou for illicit underwear advertising, the ultra-arrogant wantaway forward will have made good use of his time in the shop window. Furthermore, Denmark may just eke through to the knockout stages. But then Lukas, Per and the rest of the German horde won’t make it easy for them, unless Die Mannschaft willingly and shadily go for a draw to shaft the Dutch and ensure their bitter rivals’ exit. Murky sportsmanship terrain. Of course, revisiting the issue of Bendtner and the shop window, buyer beware. His Royal Car Crashingness plays outstandingly well for country (20 goals in 50 appearances), less so for club (22 in 99 league matches).

By contrast, Robin van Persie had been on fire for for both club and country in 2011 and 2012, although new eyes watching the Oranje going into what might be the country’s final match of this Euros could be forgiven for not knowing it. That said, van Persie managed a fantastic right-footed, chocolate-legged consolation goal in the crunch match against Germany, but not enough for the Netherlands to take any points from the encounter. With Holland sitting bottom of the table in the Quartet of Death with zero points, the future doesn’t look especially rosy. Perhaps the national team’s collapse could be Arsenal’s gain, though. In an ideal world, RvP returns to preseason well rested and ready to sign on the dotted line of contract extension. A backlash from the Dutch (and world) media may just make him appreciate the loyalty Arsene Wenger and the club have showed him over his many injury-plagued seasons. One can hope.

Arsenal new boy Podolski has played well for Germany, even if he has not scored. The former Cologne striker has put in excellent performances for Germany the last two World Cups and in the 2008 installment of the Euros, so with Germany unlikely to exit anytime soon, he’s got time. Perhaps he’s just pacing himself. He has scored 43 goals in 99 appearances for Germany, so a betting man would say he’s got goals in him, yet.

National teammate Mertesacker won the fitness race for the bench, but has yet to feature in either of the German victories in the group. As disappointing as benchwarming may be, one must remember he went off at Sunderland with an ankle ligament injury last February, an injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season. The fact that he has not suffered any new niggles or problems in training bodes well for the new season, and the veteran center half may yet have a role to play, as many expect the Germans to go the distance this summer.

Group C features no current Arsenal players–only the ones that got away, like former captain Cesc Fabregas (the hurt, it still hurts so much…) and Eduardo, the awesome but tragically leg-shattered Croazilian.

And in Group D, we’re back in traditional Arsenal territory. The group does, after all, include France (and England). But as opposed to past years where the French contingent drew from an overabundance of Arsenal riches, Laurent Koscielny alone keeps the flames alive for injured compatriots Bacary Sagna (leg) and Abou Diaby (bones on self-destruct)–and only from the bench, at that. Meanwhile, England flanking speedsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain pace it up on the English attack, though the elder young’un came on only as a super sub against France.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, in particular, has made huge strides in his adaptation to international competition, especially in his tournament debut against France at the Shakhtar Donetsk home stadium. He seemed unfazed by the moment and never got pushed around by the French. Late sub Theo, however, never even touched the ball in his one-minute cameo on the pitch. Hodgson clearly rated the teen higher than his precursor.

But then came Friday and the England/Sweden match. England went up after Andy Carroll shocked the world and forgot to blow it. Then England went down 2-1, Hodgson signaled for a substitutio,n and who should pull them level but fresh supersub Walcott, his first goal for England since the hat trick against Croatia in 2008? And then who would dribble, charge deep into the box and deliver the powerful cross to the flukey rebounding backheel of Danny Welbeck that killed off the game and looks to have sent England to the quarters? None other than the original Speedy 1.0 himself. Oxlade-Chamberlain (the 2.0) came on in the 90th minute, but Theo authoritatively made his case for both club and country with his second half display, all the more important as the race for Arsenal wing positions heats up between the two Southampton graduates, especially if Podolski lines up on the left wing at season’s start, as expected. (Obviously all depends on the $64.44 million dollar question of RvP’s presence/absence.)

As for possible Arsenal recruits, Yann M’Vila and Oliver Giroud of France seem good prospects, even if neither has really had a chance to fully shine at the tournament, though for different reasons (knee, former; Karim Benzema, latter). Each played about 20 minutes in the match against Ukraine on Friday. And Samir Nasri showed that he’s still good, if still despicable and utterly devoid of any gratitude to his former team or coach. Open letter to Emmanuel Frimpong: at your earliest convenience, please tweet, “If hating weak chins is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Or just hand that punk a pimpslap beatdown. Word, Dench.

Wayne Rooney is now eligible to rejoin the starting XI of the English squad, but Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain have deputized well in the meantime and kept the English firmly in the competition under Roy Hodgson’s tightly structured defensive regiment. Rooney could catapult the team to the knockouts, but that is far from the point here. The Euros is a way to see Arsenal players in new and different rescramblings, not about hyping players from Manchester United, no matter how hair-transplanted or talented. Any such trains of thought are hugely and boringly off-topic. And to the extent that they do register, hugely irritating.

Stay tuned for the next installment of The State of the Union: Arsenal, Polkraine. May an Arsenal player be hoisting the trophy two weeks hence.

Euro 2012PreviewSchedule

Matchday 8: Ukraine-France & Sweden-England

June 15, 2012 — by Suman


The last day of the 2nd round of group stage games, with Group D in action today. Yesterday’s Group C matches were a contrast–a tight match between Italy and Croatia that ended in a 1-1 draw, followed by a blowout 4-0 win for Spain, eliminating Ireland.

On to today: France travels to far eastern Ukraine to take on the co-hosts (can Ukraine build on King Sheva’s fairytale first game, and continue his quixotic quest to the Kyiv final?); and Sweden plays in England in the Ukrainian capital (read Brian Philips’ new piece in Grantland–“Englands of the Mind: The sound. The fury. The mediocrity.” and BBC on Roy Hodgson – The Sweden Years; although the latter is available to UK users only, so instead read Hodgson’s own words about his Sweden years here)

The fixtures:

15 June 2012
Ukraine Ukraine France France
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)
Sweden Sweden England England
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN) – Stadium: Olympic Stadium, Kyiv (UKR)

Hit us with some comments if/when you watch the matches: