Co-hosts Ukraine get their Euro 2012 show on the road on Monday evening with Sweden visitng what’s expected to be, a cauldron of noise from a fervent home support in Kiev.
But with coach Oleg Blokhin altering his team so much in the warm-up friendlies, it’s almost impossible to try and second guess for XI for their Group D opener. Of course home advantage has to be taken into account but Ukraine have endured a turbulent past 24 months and will also have to overcome a disastrous injury crisis in goal.
Ukraine do possess a decent threat on the flanks in Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko but with a wobbly back four, there’s plenty of pressure on the excellent Anatoliy Tymoschuk to give the defence protection. That backline has kept just one clean sheet in their last six games and could come unstuck against a savvy Swedish side.
The Sweden team that bored the pants off us all for the past 10 years has changed and Erik Hamren’s charges banged in 31 goals during qualification – only Germany and Netherlands managed more. Expressing themselves more in attack under Hamren, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s role in the hole has certainly got the best out of the enigmatic forward. Throw in Johan Elmander, Ola Toivonen and Rasmus Elm and Sweden have the potential to more than spoil the Kiev party.
So while we like the 2/1 on a Sweden win – knowing that only 4 of their past 38 internationals have ended all square, we’ll take the 11/10 on show from a host of firms including William Hill and Ladbrokes on Sweden in the draw no bet market – you’ll be paid out if Sweden win, or get your money back should the match end in a draw.
Key trends –
- Both teams have scored in 4 of Ukraine’s last 6 matches
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored in Sweden’s last three matches
- 9 of Sweden’s 10 qualifying games provided Over 2.5 Goals, despite the fact that both teams scored in just 6 of them.
Sweden are unbeaten in the first game of their last four major finals.