France and England control their own fates against Sweden and Ukraine respectively. Both advance with a point. The group winner avoids Spain in the quarterfinal.
France [4 pts] France advances with a win or a draw against SWE. They advance with a loss and an ENG win/draw. They are eliminated with a loss that leaves them behind a losing ENG on goal difference (currently +1 ahead of ENG).
England [4 pts] England advances with a win or a draw against UKR. They advance with a loss that leaves them at least tied on goal difference and goals scored with France.
Ukraine [3 pts] Ukraine can advance by beating ENG. They win the group with a FRA loss or draw. Should Ukraine draw and FRA lose, FRA still advances on head to head result.
Sweden [0 pts] Eliminated.
Tie-breaker: There’s no mini league. ENG and FRA drew head to head. Should ENG and FRA end tied, it comes down to group goal difference and goals scored. They are tied presently on 4 pts. FRA leads +2 to +1 on the first tie-breaker, goal difference. ENG has a 4 – 3 advantage on goals scored.
Whether both teams win, lose or draw ENG needs a better goal margin result to steal the tie breaker, for instance beating UKR 2-0 while FRA wins 1-0. Should the teams end up tied on goal difference and goals scored, ENG would go ahead of FRA on UEFA coefficient.
England vs. Ukraine: Wayne Rooney returns for England. He’s England’s clear best player. In the attacking third with club teammates Welbeck and Ashley Young, he should improve chemistry rather than detract from it. He’s an asset both in his talent and in his versatility. Rooney can play up front, behind a lead striker, on either wing or drop back into midfield. He’s also intelligent enough to harness his game and play within a system. We’re guessing against a repeat of 2006 where he came out like a caged bear after an injury absence and got sent off against Portugal.
Speaking of star strikers, Andriy Shevchenko will not start for Ukraine, after failing to get fit in time with a knee injury.
France vs. Sweden: Sweden should stay honest with their first choice XI after being eliminated. Losing all six points from winning positions in the first two matches, will either inspire or deflate them. Either way, it’s a matchup that should suit France. The French struggle when teams drop deep against them and force them to run a “half-court offense” to break them down. Against an attacking Sweden side they should get the opportunities on the break they prefer.
Prediction: France and England advance, with France winning the group.
[Photo via Getty]