France remains an enigma. They showed little impetus against England, though both sides looked content to save face. France held possession, but beyond Samir Nasri, who had perhaps his best game in a French shirt, there was little incision into Roy Hodgson’s famed “banks of four.” The French created chances, but not high percentage ones. Chasing a win here, we should discover whether the lackluster effort was situation or part of a greater malaise. Laurent Blanc opted not to start Yann M’Vila.
Ukraine was not weak. They beat Sweden 2-1 in their opening match. The team was industrious, counterattacked adeptly down the wings and received a vintage brace from aging legend Andriy Shevchenko. Facing France could return Ukraine to reality. They are (arguably with Ireland) the least gifted squad in the tournament. We saw Ukraine hit a higher gear with the home momentum, though that was barely enough to beat the third weakest team in the group.
Like Sweden, France could be vulnerable on the counter attack, but, unless Sheva downs another boot from the fountain of youth, it’s hard to see them capitalizing.
Ireland was eliminated yesterday. The Irish supporters will be missed.