Euro 2012: Expert v Expert Preview - France v Sweden


French perspective: Alexander Netherton

Against Ukraine, France were afforded the space they were denied against England, and took advantage clinically: Benzema was largely faultless and Jeremy Menez made the most of his start. Given that England found Sweden to be willing victims, France can expect to take three points and ensure qualification.

There was a better showing in defence last time out. Gael Clichy would ordinarily consider the left-back spot his, but Laurent Blanc refuses to confirm his place. The central defence of Adil Rami and Phillipe Mexes was more reliable, if not awe inspiring. Against England, you would have believed they’d not even met before, let alone played together.

Alou Diarra has impressed in the holding role, calling to mind the Diarra of his Bordeaux days under Blanc, rather than the one who just played out a grim season at Marseille. He may be replaced by Yann M’Vila, who came on as a sub against Ukraine, but given Yohan Cabaye’s slight injury and Blanc’s stated aim of tailoring a team to the opposition, the midfield is the area of the team least easily predicted.

Benzema is yet to score, and Sweden struggled against sex oaf Andy Carroll, who has taken to impersonating a footballer again rather than a stunned cow, but change is unlikely. Olivier Giroud would offer an aerial threat, but is inferior to Benzema in all other regards. It might make sense to start with both strikers against this defence, but Laurent Blanc favours a single striker. Given England’s success against Sweden highlighted their difficulties with crosses, Menez and Franck Ribery should pose a significant threat. Sweden crumbled against a mentally iffy England side and can't qualify. France should have no trouble. Should.

Score prediction: France 2-0 Sweden

Karim Benzema to score and France to win 2.90; France to win both halves 4.00; France 2-0 at 8.75.

 

Swedish perspective: Charlie Anderson

It’s always in defeat that managers bust out the best metaphors. “The operation went well, but the patient died,” said Sweden’s coach Erik Hamrén, possibly while wielding a scalpel and casting aside a blood-flecked set of scrubs.

For Sweden this is a time for grisly analogies, but also for sober reflection. Sweden are out of the European Championships but, after the nails-down-a-chalkboard horror of the opening match against Ukraine, against England they showed us what they’re really made of. This was the team that’s come so far in the last two years, the team that scored 31 goals in qualifying, the team that beat Holland.

It would be churlish to overanalyse such a breathless game, but Sweden looked markedly more fluid with Anders Svensson in the midfield, with the rugged Jonas Olsson at the back and Johan Elmander fit enough to put a shift in up front.

If the final game against France is anything like as much fun, then the Blågult will have made their mark on the tournament. Sweden’s performance still affects the other teams in Group D, so it would be unfair to put out a weakened side. But Hamrén, with one eye on the 2014 World Cup, might be tempted to bring some long-term prospects off the bench.

The promising striker John Guidetti missed the tournament with a virus, but he isn’t Sweden’s only hope. Let’s see Michael Almebäck, the pacy defender from Club Brugge. Let’s see Pontus Wernbloom, who should be Svensson’s replacement in central midfield. Let’s give Rasmus Elm the chance to orchestrate attacks, or find out whether Emir Bajrami can overcome his inconsistent club form. Most of all, let’s see if Sweden can give the Euros another performance to remember.

The next patient is ready for you, Dr Hamrén.

Score prediction: France 2-2 Sweden

Over 3.5 goals at 2.85; both teams to score at 1.72; 2-2 at 15.00.