Euro 2012: Group D Preview: Wounded England lessen threat

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Group D: Wounded England lessen threat
Donetsk, Jun 7: Group D includes former World and European winners France along with England, co-hosts Ukraine and finally Sweden. Unlike Group A, Ukraine have an uphill task battling the likes of France and an injury-prone England side. Sweden also seem to prove a point despite failures in the past.

Ukraine - co-hosts of EURO 2012, gained automatic qualification and have set a target of advancing from Group D. Manager Oleh Blokhin feels his side need to first cross the most difficult task of playing against England and France. The Ukrainians will aim to give a happy send-off to their most capped player Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and all-time goal scorer Andriy Shevchenko.

Recent form: WWWDD

Best EURO performance: First Qualification

Key Players: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Voronin and Olexandr Shovkovskiy.

Sweden failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup but manager Erik Hamren made sure the Blagult (Blue and Yellow) represent themselves as regular contenders in bigger competitions. Finishing as best runners-up, the Swedish players were boosted after beating Netherlands prior to the opener against co-hosts Ukraine.

Recent form: LWWWW

Best EURO performance: Semi-finals 1992

Key Players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sebastian Larsson, Kim Källstrom and Olof Mellberg.

France are the tipped favourites to top the Group D. Their glorious past, winning the World Cup in 1998 and crowned European Champions in 2000, has become more-or-less history. After a series of failures in a decade except for the World Cup 2006, Les Bleus have a had mixed campaign during the qualifiers and are showing signs of becoming Europe's superpowers under coach Laurent Blanc.

Recent form: DWWWW

Best EURO performance: Winners 2000

Key Players: Frank Ribery, Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Yann Mvila

England qualified against the 'weakest' teams in their group. Under new manager Roy Hodgson, England players have achieved success with friendly wins against Belgium and Norway, but the Dutch spoilt the party in Wembley winning 3-2. After failing to qualify for Euro 2008, England's worst nightmare came true during their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign. Poor form is only one of the negatives ahead of England's Euro 2012 start, the others being injuries to key players and ignorance of experienced players.

Recent form: WWLWW

Best EURO performance: Third 1968, Semi-finals 1996

Key Players: Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Ashley Cole.

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