Ukraine go top; France, England draw
12 June 2012, 08:52
Ukraine - Uefa Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine on Monday went top of Group D after a 2-1 victory over Sweden in front of delirious home fans in Kiev, after England and France could only draw 1-1 in their opener in Donetsk.
Two goals from Ukrainian icon Andrei Shevchenko secured the points for Oleg Blokhin's side after Sweden's captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the visitors ahead at the capital's Olympic Stadium.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren had made Ukraine the favourites before the match because of the home advantage but Blokhin cannot have dreamed of such a start, after poor pre-tournament form and a bout of food poisoning that struck down the squad.
In the earlier match Joleon Lescott gave England the lead on the half hour, heading in a perfectly weighted Steven Gerrard free-kick from the right touch-line after Patrice Evra had bundled into James Milner.
Samir Nasri, though, got the French back on terms nine minutes later, hitting a well-placed, right-foot shot through a crowd of players from the edge of the penalty area low to Joe Hart's right.
Hart had minutes earlier kept out a bullet header from Alou Diarra with a superb reflex save – one of a handful to keep the French at bay and England in the game.
The draw means France are now unbeaten in 22 games but England are likely to come away happier with the point, after a build-up hit by injuries to key players like Frank Lampard and suspension to Wayne Rooney.
"I think we played well as we we played against a tough team," said England coach Roy Hodgson, who was only appointed last month. "We were very disciplined and to finish 1-1 and ask the questions of them we did we've got to be happy.
"I'm not frustrated at giving away the equaliser as we kept them at bay really. In fact we had our own chances."
His French counterpart Laurent Blanc believed a draw was a fair result, saying: "We're not entirely thrilled but we're not entirely disappointed either.
"We could have lost this game had we not reacted (after England scored), so that's one of the positives."
In neighbouring Poland, preparations for the co-hosts' match with old rivals Russia on Tuesday stepped up a gear, with the authorities calling it their "biggest challenge".
Organisers said 29 300 Polish fans had tickets for the match while 9 800 Russian were expected.
Fears of violence at the Group A game have mounted as Tuesday is Russia's national day and Russia fans have already been involved in football-related violence.
"We hope that our worst fears don't come true," said Polish interior minister Jacek Cichocki.
Sporting encounters between the countries always have the weight of shared history and politics but some Polish media showed no sign of forgetting the past.
The tabloid Super Express mocked up a picture of coach Franciszek Smuda in uniform, on horseback and clutching a sword, calling for "a second Miracle on the Vistula", a reference to a 1920 battle won by Poland over Russia against all odds.
The Polish edition of Newsweek echoed the allusion with mention of "The Battle of Warsaw" 2012.
Police themselves were tight-lipped about the number of Russian and Polish fans that could march to the stadium but the country's Euro 2012 spokesman, Marcin Hera, confirmed that 9 800 Russian and 29 300 Polish fans had tickets for the match.
A total of 6 000 police are on duty in the capital during Euro 2012 but Warsaw police spokesman Maciej Karczynski refused to say how many will be deployed in Tuesday's pre-and-post match security operation.
- Sapa /AFP