LONDON / STOCKHOLM/ KIEV - Agence France-Presse
France will take on England at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk for the opening game of the Group D of the Euro 2012 on June 11, while Ukraine will host Sweden at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev in a later that night.
Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain (England)
Oxlade-Chamberlain is determined to make an impact.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is hoping to carry on England’s recent tradition of successfully unleashing teenage tyros at major tournaments when he heads to Euro 2012 next month.
From Michael Owen’s electrifying performance against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup to Wayne Rooney’s dazzling displays at Euro 2004, England has been unafraid to give youth its head at international level.
The 18-year-old Arsenal attacker demonstrated frequent flashes of precociousness in his 16 first team appearances.
A sparkling performance in the team’s 3-0 Champions League win over AC Milan in February persuaded England manager Roy Hodgson that the attacking midfielder deserved a place in his squad.
“It won’t be easy for him to break into the team but the only way I’ll find out is to sling him in at the deep end,” Hodgson said. “Even if he doesn’t swim now, he’ll learn to swim in the future.
“I wouldn’t have chosen him if I didn’t think he was ready to start games.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is determined to make an impact. “I will just try and make things happen, although I know there are other players who can do that. It will just be nice to get the opportunity and I will see what I can do,” ‘Ox’ said.
“I think I play with no fear, I run at players regardless of who they are and try to make a difference. I have a youthful enthusiasm and I am so excited about this that I will try and take any opportunity with both hands.”
Martin Olsson (Sweden)
Having spent the last few seasons making a name for himself in the Premier League, Martin Olsson will get the chance to show his credentials on the international stage.
Having suffered the disappointment of relegation with Blackburn this year, it will be an opportunity to rebound quickly and put himself firmly in the shop window.
European champion Chelsea is rumored to be amongst his suitors as a potential replacement for Ashley Cole, when the England left-back eventually moves on. Newcastle, Stoke City and Galatasaray
are others to have expressed interest.
And Olsson has everything necessary to do exactly that.
A pacey player, he can operate at either left-back or left wing meaning he is the kind of versatile player in the mould of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, who can fit seemlessly into a number of formations.
Having the pair marauding down the same flank, one ahead of the other, could have provided a confusing challenge to the right side of any opponents.
The 24-year-old only has eight caps and is by no means assured of a starting berth. He will face stiff competition from Behrang Safari of Anderlecht.
However, given that Sweden is in the same group as England, Olsson could prove crucial in that match since he is well accustomed to facing the best right-sided players the Premier League has to offer.
Yann M’Vila (France)
At the age of just 21, Yann M’Vila is already one of the first names on France coach Laurent Blanc’s team-sheet.
The Rennes defensive midfielder has taken to international football like a duck to water and his startlingly assured displays for club and country have seen him linked with Arsenal and Inter recently.
After only his first full season as a professional he made his international debut in Blanc’s first game in charge in August 2010. He has been a virtual ever-present ever since. As the deepest-lying player in the French
midfield, M’Vila prides himself on his tenacious approach. “I want to play in every match,” he said. “It’s like a pit-bull. When you give him something, he holds onto it and doesn’t let go. When I’ve got something, I don’t let go.”
However, there is far more to his game than crunching tackles alone. He is blessed with excellent awareness and is always looking for an incisive forward pass.
In the last Ligue 1 season, he averaged more passes per game (71.1) and produced more accurate long passes per game (7.8) than any other outfield player, according to the website whoscored.com.
“Dribbling doesn’t interest me at all,” he says. “It’s not my game, or my style.
“It’s true that I get more of a kick out of a really good diagonal ball - a ‘Champions League pass’, as my coach calls it.”
Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine)
European 2012, which Ukraine
is co-hosting with Poland, is a great chance for gifted Dynamo Kiev star Andriy Yarmolenko to shine and show why he is Ukraine’s most outstanding young player.
The midfielder had to endure a tough ride, after his first attempt at the age of 13 ended in disaster when he was expelled from the Dynamo academy. But his talent and hard work in the lower leagues paid dividends and he was rewarded with a place in Dynamo’s first-choice line-up.
Russia’s big-spending Anzhi expressed a desire to lure Yarmolenko from Dynamo. But the 22-year-old links his destiny in the near future to his current club.
“I want to play at Dynamo,” he said. “It’s my childhood dream and I’m happy to be here.”
He has already won 18 caps since his debut in 2009 and though Ukraine’s national manager Oleg Blokhin has repeatedly said that no one is assured of a place in his team, there is little doubt over Yarmolenko’s presence as a starter.
“There’s plenty of personnel problems in Ukraine,” said former Russian
ace Oleg Salenko, who had six goals at the 1994 World Cup. “But there are five players who are undoubted starters.”
Salenko named Dynamo goalkeeper Olexander Shovkovskiy, full back Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and wingers Oleg Gusev and Yarmolenko as automatic first choices.