thumbnail Hello,

We look back at the qualification campaigns of all four teams in Group D as the final countdown to this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine begins

A co-host, a reliably solid side and two big names who have disappointed in recent tournaments add up to a difficult one to call when looking at Group D.

Ukraine, of course, will enjoy home advantage but are, on paper at least, seemingly the weakest of the four sides and have not played competitive football for two years, while their fellow yellows, Sweden, are steady but strong, qualifying as the best runners-up and possessing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic a striker of genuine world-class quality.

Laurent Blanc's France have been rebuilding since their disastrous campaign at World Cup 2010 and overturned Germany, one of the summer's hottest-tipped sides, in a March friendly, having seen off Bosnia and Herzegovina from qualification.

England, meanwhile, have only just appointed a coach for the tournament, and new man Roy Hodgson has little time to prepare the squad in his image. They qualified solidly but will feel that each of their three opponents poses real danger.

With the tournament proper only a month away, Goal.com has looked back in detail at the qualification stories of each side to see what we can possibly expect in Group D this summer.

UKRAINE

Ukraine were guaranteed a place in the Euro 2012 finals by virtue of being the hosts of the competition along with Poland. Having not qualified for a single major international competition since World Cup 2006 in Germany, Oleg Blokhin’s side are raring to demonstrate their calibre in front of their own supporters.

While other European nations except Poland have been involved in the qualifying campaign for much of the last two years, Ukraine have been engaged in friendly internationals to prune themselves for the competition.

Blokhin’s side held Netherlands to a creditable 1-1 draw in Donetsk in August 2010 in what was the first of a series of preparatory tests. In the following month they played out a similar scoreline against Poland in Lodz and just three days later beat Chile 2-1 at home.

A 2-2 draw with lowly Canada followed in October and then came a 2-0 defeat to Brazil in Derby, England. The year 2010 ended on a note of disappointment for the Ukrainians as they failed to beat Switzerland in Geneva, settling for a 2-2 draw instead.

2011 started on a similarly low-key note for Ukraine, as they drew 2-2 with Romania in February and went down 2-0 to Italy in Kiev in March.

Things appeared to have picked up for the Euro 2012 co-hosts at the start of June, as goals from Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andriy Voronin saw them get the better of Uzbekistan 2-0 at home.

But from thereon in Blokhin and his players had to eat humble pie, as they lost four games in a row to France, Sweden, Uruguay and Czech Republic.

However, since their defeats to the Czechs in September 2011, Ukraine’s form has surged as they are unbeaten in five matches. Victories over Bulgaria and Estonia arrived before an encouraging goalless draw with Germany in Kiev, and thereafter there were wins against Austria and Israel, allowing the Ukrainians to foster hopes of a positive Euro 2012 campaign.

Blokhin's men are arguably the weak link in Group D among Sweden, France and England but playing at home could give them an advantage.

SWEDEN

Sweden had failed to qualify for World Cup 2010 finals in South Africa and were doubly motivated to advance to their first major international competition since Euro 2008. To do so they had to overcome Netherlands, Hungary, Finland, Moldova and San Marino in Euro 2012 qualifying Group E.

It was always going to a difficult task sealing automatic qualification, but Sweden’s campaign got off to a flyer in September 2010 as they beat Hungary 2-0 at home in Solna, Pontus Wernbloom with both the goals.

Four days later, Erik Hamren’s side hammered European minnows San Marino 6-0 in Malmo, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice. It saw their hopes of finishing at the top of the group surge even in these early stages of the qualifying campaign, but in their very next game the Swedes were brought down to earth.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay each scored a double as Netherlands comfortably saw off Sweden 4-1 at the Amsterdam ArenA in October 2010, but in March 2011, Hamren’s team recovered from the blow to register a 2-1 home victory over Moldova, Mikael Lustig and Sebastian Larsson with the goals.

Sweden won their second match in a row in June when they destroyed Moldova 4-1 away, Johan Elmander netting twice either side of goals from Ola Toivonen and Alexander Gerndt.

Four days later the Nordic nation carved out yet another huge win when they demolished Finland 5-0 in front of over 30,000 spectators at the Rasunda Stadium in Solna. Ibrahimovic was the star of the show as the AC Milan forward bagged a stunning hat-trick.

However, Sweden’s run of good results were punctuated in September when they went down 2-1 to Hungary in Budapest, but they bounced back in style just days later as they beat San Marino 5-0 away - Kim Kallstrom, Christian Wilhelmsson (2), Martin Olsson and Tobias Hysen with the goals at the Stadio Olimpico in Serravalle.

Hamren’s side had Ukraine and Poland in their sights and they continued to march towards their goal as they beat Finland 2-1 away in October 2011. Larsson and Olsson put the Swedes 2-0 ahead before Joona Toivio halved the deficit, but the Swedes eventually saw it through.

Netherlands had already qualified for the finals when Sweden played host to Oranje on October 11, 2011, but they dashed their ambition of a perfect qualifying campaign as the home side won 3-2.

The result saw Sweden finish runners-up in Group E with 24 points from 10 matches, just three behind winners Netherlands, and they advanced to the Euro 2012 finals as the best second-placed team in the qualifiers.

FRANCE

When Laurent Blanc was appointed France coach at the end of June 2010, Les Bleus were a mess. A humiliating exit from World Cup 2010 in South Africa combined with in-fighting had seen Raymond Domenech lose his job and a number of players suspended.

Qualifying for Euro 2012 was always going to be tough, even though a group comprising of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Belarus, Albania and Luxembourg would have traditionally posed little trouble for the former European and world champions.

France lost their opening game in Group D, going down 1-0 to Belarus at Stade de France in Paris in September 2010. It was their second loss in a row and saw sceptics raise their doubts over Blanc's suitability for the job, but what followed thereafter was a credit to the Frenchman’s vision and calibre.

A 2-0 away win against Bosnia in Sarajevo just four days later gave them much needed confidence and support. The third match in France’s qualifying campaign was against Romania in October 2010 in Paris, and that ended in a 2-0 victory. However, Les Bleus had to wait until the 83rd minute to break the deadlock when Loic Remy found the target, and then in injury time, Yoann Gourcuff wrapped up the three points.

Three days later another victory of the same margin followed as goals from Karim Benzema and Gourcuff saw Blanc’s side get the better of Luxembourg 2-0 in Metz. The two home victories spurred the European giants on and they remained unbeaten in the qualifying campaign thereafter.

The reverse encounter against European minnows Luxembourg away from home in March saw France win by two goals once more, this time Philippe Mexes opening the scoring on 28 minutes and Gourcuff finishing off the contest on 72 minutes. It was France’s sixth win in a row and saw them go four points clear at the top of Group D.

However, France’s wings were clipped somewhat in Minsk in June as they failed to garner maximum points against Belarus. An own goal from Eric Abidal put the hosts ahead after 20 minutes, and although Florent Malouda restored parity just a couple of minutes later, Blanc and his men had to remain satisfied with a 1-1 draw. The game marked the first time that France had conceded a goal in qualifying since their defeat to Belarus in September.

Come September 2011, France returned to winning ways as they got the better of Albania 2-1 away, Benzema and Yann M'Vila with the goals. But they failed to score in their next game, drawing 0-0 with Romania in Bucharest.

October marked a productive period for France as they sealed automatic qualification to the Euro 2012 finals. Malouda, Remy and Anthony Reveillere were on target in their comprehensive 3-0 win against Albania in Paris.

It put them within a point of a berth in Ukraine and Poland, and Blanc’s side got it at the same venue just four days later in the final qualifier as they drew 1-1 with Bosnia, Nasri’s second-half penalty at Stade de France seeing them through. Having successfully turned around France’s fortunes, Blanc will now be quietly confident of a strong Euros.

ENGLAND

England went into the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign on the back of yet another premature exit from a major international competition, as the Three Lions crashed out of World Cup 2010 in South Africa at the round-of-16 stage.

However, pitted in Group G against Montenegro, Switzerland, Wales and Bulgaria, England were expected to breeze through the qualification procedure, and so they did.

Coached by Fabio Capello, the Englishmen registered a comprehensive victory over Bulgaria at Wembley in September 2010 in their opening game, winning 4-0 thanks to a Jermain Defoe hat-trick.

A 3-1 away win against Switzerland followed just four days later, but the following month Montenegro frustrated them in London to earn a creditable 0-0 draw and stay top of the group.

The next qualifier for England was in March 2011 against British rivals Wales, and they won that encounter 2-0 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Frank Lampard opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just seven minutes, and in the 15th minute Darren Bent found the target.

Next up for Capello’s England was a home clash with Switzerland in June 2011 that ended in a 2-2 draw. The Swiss found themselves 2-0 ahead after 35 minutes, thanks to a double from Tranquillo Barnetta, but Lampard’s penalty and an Ashley Young strike helped the Three Lions pull level in the second half.

England picked up maximum points from their next two qualifiers in September, defeating Bulgaria 3-0 in Sofia in September with Wayne Rooney scoring twice, and then getting the better of Wales 1-0 at Wembley, Young once again proving to be the hero.

That was not enough for the 1966 World Cup winners to reach the European Championships finals, though, as they headed into the final qualifying clash still yet to make it through.

But England did eventually book their place in the Euros in October 2011 by playing out a 2-2 draw with Montenegro in Podgorica. Young turned home Theo Walcott’s cross to put the visitors 1-0 ahead in the 11th minute and Bent tapped in 20 minutes later to make it 2-0 for his side.

However, Elsad Zverotic pulled one back for Montenegro on the stroke of half-time and the hosts gained numerical advantage on 75 minutes when Rooney was dismissed. The hosts found the equaliser in stoppage time through Andrija Delibasic and finished runners-up, while England progressed to the finals as Group G winners, six points clear at the top.

However, with Rooney suspended from the group stage games and Capello stepping down in February to be replaced by Roy Hodgson in May, England face a tricky time this summer. Drawn against co-hosts Ukraine, Sweden and France, the Three Lions will find it tough to advance to the quarter-finals.

Related

From the web