The time for talk is over. France may have taken a step towards the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 but Sweden will be standing in their way. Sweden may already be knocked out of the competition but they are highly unlikely to give France an easy time of things in this final group encounter.
So far in the competition, France have played decent football based on their retention of the football and ability to spread it around the pitch effectively. This has been observed in the creative play of Samir Nasri, Franck Ribery and, against Ukraine at least, Jeremy Menez. The influence of Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye is not to be underestimated either. If France are to be successful against Sweden, they must ensure this continues.
France are definitely a threat going forward. They are a side who can create chances and, in Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, they have two strikers capable of putting these chances away. It could be argued that this has been a problem for France in the competition so far. A number of golden opportunities have presented themselves but Les Bleus have not shown much confidence in putting the ball into the net. Against Ukraine, Jeremy Menez was the main culprit of this but he did eventually put France in front with a nicely-worked goal.
Defensively, France seem to be getting stronger. Questions were asked of the Rami – Mexes partnership in the friendly matches before the competition and indeed during the first half of the opening group fixture against England. Judging their performances during the tournament as a whole, it has to be said that they have been acceptable thusfar. They are, after all, flanked by the reliable Mathieu Debuchy, a player who has impressed for Les Bleus so far.
It will be interesting to note Sweden’s approach to this match. They have already been knocked out of the competition but will be looking to claim a relatively large scalp here by potentially taking group-favourites France out with them. In the previous group game against England, Sweden worked hard and showed relative mental toughness to take the lead. In the end, they were unable to hold onto this lead and found themselves out of the competition as a result.
Lyon midfielder Kim Kallstrom has already started the mind-games against France, as was earlier reported. This was done before the tournament had even started and showed that whereas Sweden may not be underestimating Laurent Blanc’s troops, they will look for any psychological advantage leading up to the match.
Given the accomplishments of Olof Mellberg from set-pieces against England, France must be wary not to concede irresponsible free-kicks in dangerous areas. Some may still perceive France’s defence as being shaky and Swedish coach Erik Hamren may look to set pieces as an area where the game can be won for his side.
Yohan Cabaye was an injury concern in training for France but Laurent Blanc is confident he will be able to feature. Johan Elmander is certain to miss the game for Sweden.