Group D: England and France favourites to progress

The two favourites for qualification in Group D put themselves in pole position to progress; France defied an hour's delay due to torrential rain to secure a comfortable 2-0 victory over hosts Ukraine, while England's 3-2 triumph over Sweden was anything but, relying on a superb second half cameo by Theo Walcott to eventually overpower the Swedes.

What the Ukraine-France fixture lacked in action and entertainment, a bizarre occurrence just four minutes into the match more than made up for. Cascading rain and incessant thunderstorms led to pools of water forming on the pitch, and the decision was made to postpone the match. It took emergency measures by the ground staff to allow the game to resume one hour later, but the presence of a passionate home crowd did little to galvanise the Ukrainians, who succumbed to the advances of an exciting French side led by the mercurial Franck Ribery. The Bayern Munich winger was a constant danger, setting up his side's first goal from Jeremy Menez, with Yohan Cabaye adding a second three minutes later. It was a game that the French never looked like losing, and it has left the hosts needing a win against England to ensure qualification.

Sweden captain Ibrahimovic: the most talented player on the park ©Wikimedia Commons; Image credit: Ricardo Alvarez

England's match against Sweden, by contrast, was far more entertaining. An uninspiring, yet dominant first half performance from England led to a 1-0 lead at half time thanks to a fantastic header from the impressive Andy Carroll, but Sweden replied in the second half with two Olof Mellberg goals from set pieces. The Swedes were in the ascendency until Theo Walcott's introduction to the fray; as he scored a swerving drive from the edge of the area to level proceedings, before setting up Danny Welbeck to score the winner with a brilliant back heeled finish. Walcott gave the England attack a much needed injection of pace, and he was undoubtedly the match winner, but it was the two big pony-tailed frontmen Carroll and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who impressed the most. Carroll proved his deriders wrong by exhibiting his best attributes. His work rate and endeavour hassled the Swedish defence throughout, and a goal was just reward for his efforts. As for Ibrahimovic, the tournament will sorely miss his quality. He looked a class above everyone else on the pitch, demonstrating that on his day, he is easily the most complete forward in world football.

France, Ukraine and England can all go through on Tuesday, but it is the latter who will undoubtedly have the hardest task. Backed by a partisan home crowd, Ukraine have every chance of causing an upset, especially if they can exploit England's apparent vulnerability at set pieces, while it is difficult to witness anything other than a resounding victory for the in form French. With the qualifiers from four groups yet to be decided, the next four days should produce an even greater spectacle than has already been witnessed.



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