Venue: Olympic Stadium, Kiev Date: Friday 15th June Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
In what is turning into a far less straightforward Group D than anticipated, group minnows (and co- hosts) Ukraine find themselves perched proudly, if not only temporarily, on top of the pile. The French may not be so easily overwhelmed by the intimidating and quite frankly, awe-inspiring partisan support, meaning that this will be a crucial game for England if they have any hopes of topping the group.
Sweden on the other hand will undoubtedly be looking to put the shock defeat to Ukraine behind them, and dropping any more points is simply not an option as it will surely leave them staring down the barrel of elimination.
In their 1-1 draw with France on Monday, England managed to continue this short but nonetheless intriguing unbeaten run under the new management of Roy Hodgson. The team have since appeared to be extremely well organised at the back as well as dangerous on the counter, despite the absence of talismanic striker Wayne Rooney.
In terms of injuries, although the England squad was hit hard prior to the opening game, news from the training camp is that Scott Parker has shaken off a recurring Achilles problem and although Zlatan Ibrahimovic was seen with his thigh heavily strapped in training on Tuesday, it is thought to be merely a precaution.
Sweden boss Erik Hamren was far more critical of his teams’ display branding them as “cowards” and admitting that his team “failed to reach the level they were supposed to”. Although we will have to wait and see whether the coaches’ harsh criticism of his team will inspire or further diminish their chances of qualification, it is clear that the boss expects a more courageous performance against England.
In their previous meetings you may be surprised to read that England have failed to beat Sweden in five attempts, suffering one defeat and drawing the remaining four, so if nothing else the Swedes have history on their side.
England: Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck
With the impetus on both teams going forward, Hodgson will surely utilize the pace of Theo Walcott in place of the disappointing James Milner. Walcott enjoyed his most successful and consistent season at Arsenal and at the age of 23, must now begin to deliver on his years of promise on the international stage.
Andy Carroll is expected to partner Welbeck upfront. The towering Liverpool striker ended the season in impressive style and his inclusion in the starting XI signals real intent from Hodgsons men. Carroll will add to England's aerial threat as the Swedes looked vulnerable from set pieces against Ukraine, eventually succumbing to two headed goals from Shevchenko
Sweden: Andreas Isaksson, Jonas Olsson, Olof Mellberg, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Rasmus Elm, Kim Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson, Christian Wilhelmson, Johan Elmander, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Sweden lacked any real threat against the Ukrainians until the introduction of Christian Wilhelmson. The creative right winger is expected to have forced his way into the starting line up
England vs Sweden odds
England are odds on favourites to win the game and a bet with Bet365 at 11/10 (2.10) provides the highest return.
You may also find good value in the Goalscorer markets and as England will be without Wayne Rooney for this game, you would have to go with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to double his tally following his opener against Ukraine. The powerful striker is at 15/8 (2.88) with Betfred to score anytime.
England vs Sweden predictions
The England team are beginning to build a reputation under Hodgson as a well-oiled defensive unit, but as many of the players remarked following the draw against France; they will have to become more expansive in attack in order to progress in the tournament.
Against an admittedly weaker opponent in the form of Sweden, England will surely relinquish some of their defensive responsibilities to free up the likes Young and Welbeck against an ageing and less mobile Swedish defence.
The English team have an abundance of creative talent across the midfield and will look to skipper Steven Gerrard to improve upon his impressive display on Monday night and find a way to unlock the Swedish defence.
Despite the significance of a defeat for either of these teams at this stage in the competition I am sure England will come out on top in what is sure to be a closely contested encounter.
Score prediction: England 2-1 Sweden
Tip: England win at 11/10 (2.10) with Bet365
By Adonis C Pratsides
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