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Euro 2012 Preview: France gets nod in Group D
by Paul Kennedy, June 9th, 2012 8:42PM

TAGS:  england, european championship, france


PREDICTION. 1. France, 2. England, 3. Sweden, 4. Ukraine.

NAME YOU KNOW. Franck Ribery picked the right time to break out of his scoring slump for France. The veteran of the 2006 and 2010 World Cup teams had not scored for the Bleus since April 2009 when he struck the tying goal in their 3-2 win over Iceland in Valenciennes in late May.

The Bayern Munich winger followed that up with goals in wins over Serbia and Estonia. He is only one of three players who started the opening game of France's disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign who are still with the team.

Ribery, 29, was handed a three-match ban for his role as one of the leaders of the player strike in South Africa, but French coach Laurent Blanc kept his faith in him.

"Blanc always believed in me," said Ribery. "Blanc and [assistant coach] Jean-Louis Gasset came to Munich to speak to me, which is something huge. There was a time when people were talking only about me, there was a lot of heavy criticism. They told me to get my confidence back.''

Ribery not only has the support of his coaches, he has regained the support of French fans. He left the Estonia game in Le Mans to cheers of "Ribery! Ribery!"

"It was great to see how the fans treated me," he said. "It gave me a lot of confidence. Everyone needs the backing of their fans, and I had lost that for a while in the French team. Now it's exactly the same with the French team as it is with Bayern.''

NAME YOU'LL KNOW. England will be without suspended star Wayne Rooney for the first two games at Euro 2012, which means 21-year-old striker Danny Welbeck, Rooney's teammate at Manchester United, may be thrust into the spotlight.

Born to Ghanaian parents, Welbeck joined Man. United at the age of 14 but it was only this past season he broke into the starting lineup. Welbeck credits Rooney for his success at Old Trafford.

"He’s fantastic and I owe Wayne a lot," said Welbeck.  "He has been a terrific friend and a brilliant help to me. We have really forged a great partnership and he is amazing during a game. He never stops yapping in my ear, telling me, ‘Daniel this’ and ‘Daniel that.'"

Welbeck is excited to be playing in the first major championship.

"There’s a few of us playing in our first tournament and we’re just taking it all in at the moment," he said.

TABLOID FODDER. Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin does not mince words. He says his players can't score and they can't defend. How's that for a positive view from the Euro 2012 co-hosts?

The former Soviet Union star said he had slim pickings to find strikers from the domestic championship.

"Excuse me, but this level is very low for our championship," Blokhin said. "If a forward can't create a situation where he's able to poke the ball home, then he's not a forward for me."

The former European Player of the Year doesn't think much of his selection of defenders.

"We have problems related to both the central defenders and fullbacks," he said. "Figuratively speaking, our defenders do not even tackle properly."

Nonetheless, Blokhin says there are advantages to being the underdog.

"I think the fact that we are not regarded as favorites is good," he said. "There will be less pressure on the team."

M*A*S*H REPORT. France has injury problems in midfield ahead of Monday's opener against England, and the Bleus are using cold treatments to help get their players back in shape.

Yann M’Vila (ankle) is likely out against England, but Blaise Matuidi (hamstring) and Alou Diarra (knee) might be ready.

French doctors are using a cryotherapy chamber at the team base camp in a bid to get them ready.

TWITTER, YES OR NO? Despite England's reputation of in-fighting, there is no ban on England's players using Twitter or other social media at Euro 2012. The English guidelines: tweet sensibly and do not divulge sensitive information, such as the starting lineup.

That doesn't mean players not in the England squad aren't stirring up trouble. Bad boy Joey Barton says he should have been called up over Liverpool's Jordan Henderson as a replacement for the injured Frank Lampard.

June 11 in Donetsk
France vs. England, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 12 p.m. ET
June 11 in Kiev
Ukraine vs. Sweden, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 15 in Kiev
Sweden vs. England, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 15 in Donetsk
Ukraine vs. France, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 12 p.m. ET
June 19 in Kiev
Sweden vs. France, ESPN2, ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN Deportes, 5:30 pm ET)
June 19 in Donetsk
England vs. Ukraine, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
Goalkeepers: 1-Joe Hart (Man. City), 13-Robert Green (West Ham United), 23-Jack Butland (Birmingham City)
Defenders: 3-Ashley Cole (Chelsea), 6-John Terry (Chelsea), 2-Glen Johnson (Liverpool), 14-Phil Jones (Man. United), 12-Leighton Baines (Everton), 15-Joleon Lescott (Man. City), 18-Phil Jagielka (Everton), 5-Martin Kelly (Liverpool)
Midfielders: 4-Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), 17-Scott Parker (Tottenham), 16-James Milner (Man. City), 19-Stewart Downing (Liverpool), 7-Theo Walcott (Arsenal), 20-Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), 11-Ashley Young (Man. United), 8-Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Forwards: 10-Wayne Rooney (Man. United), 22-Danny Welbeck (Man. United), 9-Andy Carroll (Liverpool), 21-Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)

Goalkeepers: 1-Hugo Lloris (Lyon), 16-Steve Mandanda (Marseille), 23-Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: 22-Gael Clichy (Man. City), 3-Patrice Evra (Man. United), 21-Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), 5-Philippe Mexes (AC Milan), 4-Adil Rami (Valencia), 2-Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), 13-Anthony Reveillere (Lyon)
Midfielders: 6-Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), 15-Florent Malouda (Chelsea), 11-Samir Nasri (Man. City), 18-Alou Diarra (Marseille), 17-Yann Mvila (Stade Rennes), 19-Marvin Martin (Sochaux), 12-Blaise Matuidi (Paris SG)
Forwards: 20-Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle United), 10-Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), 7-Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), 9-Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), 14-Jeremy Menez (Paris SG), 8-Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)

Goalkeepers: 23-Par Hansson (Helsingborgs), 1-Andreas Isaksson (PSV Eindhoven), 12-Johan Wiland (Copenhagen).
Defenders: 15-Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), 4-Andreas Granqvist (Genoa), 2-Mikael Lustig (Celtic), 3-Olof Mellberg (Olympiakos Piraeus), 13-Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich), 5-Martin Olsson (Blackburn Rovers), 17-Behrang Safari (Anderlecht)
Midfielders: 19-Emir Bajrami (FC Twente), 6-Rasmus Elm (AZ), 18-Samuel Holmen (Istanbul), 9-Kim Kallstrom (Lyon), 7-Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), 8-Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), 16-Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), 21-Christian Wilhelmsson (Al Hilal).
Forwards: 11-Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), 14-Tobias Hysen (IFK Gothenburg), 10-Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan), 22-Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen), 20-Ola Toivonen (PSV).

Goalkeepers: 12-Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), 23-Oleksander Horyainov (Metalist Kharkiv), 1-Maxym Koval (Dynamo Kiev).
Defenders: 5-Oleksander Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), 20-Yaroslav Rakitsky (Shakhtar Donetsk), 13-Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), 3-Evhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), 17-Taras Mykhalyk (Dynamo Kiev), 2-Evhen Selin (Vorskla), 21-Bohdan Butko (Illichivets).
Midfielders: 8-Oleksander Aliev (Dynamo Kiev), 6-Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), 9-Oleh Gusyev (Dynamo Kiev), 11-Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), 19-Evhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro), 14-Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), 18-Serhiy Nazarenko (Tavriya), 4-Anatoly Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich).
Forwards: 15-Artem Milevsky (Dynamo Kiev), 7-Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kiev), 22-Marco Devic (Metalist Kharkiv), 10-Andriy Voronin (Dynamo Moscow), 16-Evhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk).

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