Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - Page 18 News List

EURO 2012: ‘Les Bleus’ face dilemma ahead of Sweden match

Reuters, KIEV

France’s Karim Benzema balances a ball on his head in a training session at the team’s base in Kircha near Donetsk, Ukraine, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

France face a dilemma ahead of a game they can afford to lose when they take on eliminated Sweden in their final Euro 2012 Group D match today.

They may have to decide whether they want to finish top of the group and avoid a potential quarter-final against world champions Spain, or they would prefer to finish second and stay in the comfort and familiarity of their Donetsk base.

Coach Laurent Blanc may also ponder resting the three players who have been booked in the tournament, but he was adamant Les Bleus would try to win the game, even though a one-goal defeat could still see them through.

“It is always difficult to play against Sweden and we will prepare to win it,” he told reporters.

However, a balance is difficult to find.

France train at the excellent facilities used by Shakhtar Donetsk and it has been proving beneficial.

“It is the ideal structure. We never experienced this before. Everything is available on site and it helps us gain a lot of time,” said Francois Darras, one of three physiotherapists.

If France finish top of the group they would need to travel to Kiev from Donetsk early on the day before the quarter-final, losing precious recuperation time.

France, who snatched their first win in a major championship since 2006 when they beat co-hosts Ukraine 2-0 in their previous match, would head the standings if they beat Sweden and England defeat Ukraine without making up an inferior goal-difference.

They have four points like England, with Ukraine in third place on three and Sweden on none.

A draw in both games would put France and England through, with Les Bleus top on goal-difference.

With the scenarios favoring France, Blanc could be tempted to rest players or spare those who have been booked.

Centerback Philippe Mexes, rightback Mathieu Debuchy and winger Jeremy Menez would miss out on a potential quarter-final appearance if they pick up another yellow card today.

Mexes is unlikely to be left out because Blanc will not want to break up his solid partnership with Adil Rami.

Utility defender Anthony Reveillere could come in for Debuchy and Menez could be rested, with Florent Malouda or Mathieu Valbuena taking his place.

Yann Mvila, fit after suffering an ankle sprain in the buildup to the tournament, could return in the midfield for Yohan Cabaye after the Newcastle United player picked up a minor knock against Ukraine.

Sweden will be out to restore pride back home after throwing away leads in losses to Ukraine and England.

“We will go for it. We are playing for honor,” forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic said. “We are going to bring some points home with us.”

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