By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
Group D betting preview: Ukraine v Sweden – Kiev
Monday, 7.45pm (BBC1 and RTE2)
The co-hosts bring the curtain down on over two years of meaningless friendlies when they kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against Sweden this evening.
Ukraine intended to use the last couple of years to unearth some hidden gems to unleash upon the rest of Europe for this tournament, but that’s gone about as well as an anti-government protest in the streets of Kiev. They’re still very reliant on aging stalwarts Andriy Shevchenko and Anatoliy Tymoschuk and the fact that manager, Oleg Blokhin admitted his defenders “don’t even tackle properly” doesn’t inspire confidence. Still though, they’ve got that vague bonus of home support and could inspire the players to punch above their weight. A bout of food-poisoning disrupted preparations last week, but everyone has recovered and they’ve learned not to shop in the Aldi bargain bin.
Despite finishing second to the Netherlands, Sweden qualified automatically by being the best of the runners-up. They even beat the Dutch in the course of that campaign as coach Erik Hamren found a system that accommodated Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s colossal ego. They’ve a nice mix of youth and experience in the squad and they’re more attack-minded than the Swedes of the Lagerback era.
Poland lived up to the general trend of the hosts not delivering in their opening game of the Euros and there’s a danger the occasion will be too much for Ukraine’s players. It’s actually their first game at a European Championships ever, so going for the draw could be the boring, but safest option.
A Correct Score stab in the dark
Both teams are better in attack than they are in defence. There have only ever been two 2-2 draws in the entire 150-game history of the European Championship group stages. That represents 1.34% of all games and looks like a statistical anomaly, so going for the high-scoring stalemate at 14/1 is worth a punt.
A goalscorer bet to look out for
Andriy Shevchenko may be 35, but he’s still a talismanic figure for the team. He missed a couple of gilt-edged chances in Ukraine’s 2-0 friendly defeat to Turkey last week and based on the probably flawed logic that the woeful misses are now out of his system, 15/2 for him to be First Goalscorer may not be a bad idea. It’s certainly a better idea than paying £30 million for him.
Something a bit random
Given their defensive issues, expecting goals probably isn’t a bad idea. The Match and Total Goals Double of Ukraine to win and 5 or more goals in the match at 14/1.
Robbie Fowler Says
Like Poland the other night, I can see Ukraine starting strongly. I’d expect the Swedes to come into it more as the game goes on and it could easily end up a draw.