Expect France to give Three Lions Les Bleus

Today, 5.00pm, ITV

ALL this talk of the low expectations at the Euros being a boost to England’s chances; I just don’t buy it – they are heading for a fall.

How the boffins that devise the FIFA rankings can say England are the sixth best in the world, and France the 14th, I have no idea. More strange is that that places the Three Lions fourth and France 10th of the teams at Euro 2012.

Don’t get me wrong, England aren’t atrocious. Their misfortune with injuries and suspensions has been well documented, but the bottom line is that there is just nothing exciting about England.

Even their fiercest cheerleaders will have found the victories over Norway and Belgium tedious. That is, though, what can be expected under Roy Hodgson, and it will surely be another belts and braces approach against the French.

Laurent Blanc’s side are pretty much the opposite to England: shaky at the back and lively up top.

This was perfectly demonstrated against Estonia in their final warm-up game. Les Bleus won 4-0, but would have conceded against better opponents. At the other end, however, Karim Benzema (2) and Franck Ribery were among the goals as they, and Manchester City’s Samir Nasri, ran riot.

And Blanc has plenty of options – as illustrated by the fact that Newcastle schemer Hatem Ben Arfa is likely to spend most of Euro 2012 watching from the bench.

France should have most of the possession this evening and, while they will find it hard to breakdown one of the competition’s strongest backlines and arguably its best goalkeeper, they have too much talent not to get there in the end.

The 10/1 I put up on France each-way to win the tournament last week has gone as support gathers behind the Euro 2000 winners. A victory here will see their current odds of 8/1 contract further and they look a good bet at 6/4 with Coral to achieve it.

That said, for all France’s creativity, I doubt it will be a game of many chances and would advise selling goals with Sporting Index, even at 1.95. The right call in the correct score market looks like being 1-0, available at 11/2 with Coral.

■ Pointers…
France to beat England at 6/4 with Coral

France to win 1-0 at 11/2 with Coral

Sell total goals at 1.95 with Sporting Index

Today, 7.45pm, BBC

EVEN with home advantage, it’s hard to see Ukraine performing well at Euro 2012. The co-hosts open up with a tricky game against Sweden and their run of results in recent friendlies suggests it could be a short-lived tournament.

Over the past year, Ukraine have been beaten by France, Sweden, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Austria and Turkey. The recent result that offers the most encouragement is a 3-3 draw with 2008 runners-up Germany.

There are concerns at the back for Oleh Blokhin’s side as they’ve only kept one clean sheet in their past six internationals, during which time they’ve conceded 11 goals. It doesn’t get much better up front given an aging Andriy Shevchenko has every chance of starting. The 35-year-old is no longer the star man, but a lack of options could thrust him back into the first XI.

Sweden have no such problems in attack, with the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front. The AC Milan striker had an excellent domestic campaign in Italy and bagged 28 goals en route to landing the Serie A top goalscorer award. Ibrahimovic scored five times from eight appearances in a qualifying campaign that saw the Swedes finish narrow runners-up to Netherlands in Group E, but still qualify as the best performing second-placed side.

Kim Kallstrom and Sebastian Larsson will be pulling the strings from midfield and that’s another area that they can dominate. The creative pair made 13 assists between them in the qualifiers, with Kallstrom’s seven the joint-most, alongside Germany’s Mesut Ozil.

Sweden head into their opening fixture on the back of four straight wins and the underdogs for this game are a good shout at 7/4 with Coral to kick off with three points.

It took a 90th minute winner from Tobias Hysen to give Sweden the win when these two sides last met, in Ukraine in August 2011, and a similar scoreline looks on the cards with both teams looking to keep it tight. Spread bettors should look to sell their supremacy at 0.1.

■ Pointers…
Sweden to beat Ukraine at 7/4 with Coral

Sell Ukraine supremacy at 0.1 with Sporting Index

Wednesday, 7.45pm, BBC

DENMARK’S shock win against Netherlands on Saturday has blown Group B apart and left the Dutch with it all to do if they are going to reach the second round.

Beating Germany on Wednesday evening would get their campaign back on track, but Joachim Loew’s men line-up as 13/10 favourites with Coral, buoyed by their efficient 1-0 victory over Portugal in the pool’s other game so far.

Netherlands will be wounded and that could spell danger for Germany – if they bring their shooting boots this time. The Oranje squandered many opportunities, with Robin van Persie not looking like the player who has been so deadly for Arsenal. In contrast, Germany struggled to create chances and the game looked destined for a goalless draw until Mario Gomez’s strike in the 72nd-minute delivered the points.

Expect Bert van Marwijk’s side to come at Germany – they have little other choice – and it could be a lively contest.

However, I didn’t anticipate Netherlands getting through the group and my position has only been strengthened. Germany will be happy with a point from this contest and Loew’s charges have the ability to frustrate the Dutch again.

The stalemate can be backed at 23/10 with Coral and the 1-1 correct score stands out at 6/1 with William Hill.

■ Pointers…
Back the draw at 23/10 with Coral

Back the 1-1 correct score at 6/1 with William Hill