Created on 12-06-2012 at 00:00 AM
The last two of Bayern’s 12-strong contingent at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine entered the fray in Group D on Monday night, and both avoided the dreaded first-match defeat as Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Ukraine came from behind to beat Sweden 2-1, and the French with FCB winger Franck Ribery drew 1-1 with stubborn England.
Ribery and Laurent Blanc’s fancied France side, also featuring former Bayern reserve Alou Diarra in defensive midfield, came up against Roy Hodgson’s England in the sweaty heat of Donetsk. The approximately 48,500 crowd at the Donbass Arena saw a low-paced game largely dominated by tactical caution. Manchester City’s James Milner missed a great chance to put the Three Lions in front on a rare foray forward, before Joleon Lescott headed home Steven Gerrard’s retaken free-kick to hand his side a 30th-minute lead.
France upped their game and City’s Samir Nasri capitalised on Ribery’s lay-off to fire past his club colleague Joe Hart and level the scores six minutes before half-time. The heat and an unwillingness to risk defeat prompted a low-key second half, with both sides settling for the draw early on. The French are now undefeated in their last 22 matches. “It was very important to avoid losing our first match,” Ribery told the post-match press conference.
Co-hosts come from behind
In the evening, co-hosts Ukraine moved to the top of the embryonic Group D table with an exciting victory over Sweden. Tymoshchuk expertly anchored the midfield for Oleh Blokhin's men in a match which sparked into life after half-an-hour of cautious probing. The frenetic 64,219 full house in Kyiv was temporarily silenced when superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed the Scandinavians a 52nd-minute lead, but a quick-fire brace from veteran Dynamo Kyiv striker Andriy Shevchenko on 55 and 62 minutes turned the game on its head.
After Shevchenko went off ten minutes from the end, Tymoshchuk took over as captain as the home side survived a couple of late scares but held on for their first-ever victory at the European championships. “This is a great day for our country, but we mustn’t let up now. We have to carry on [against France and England] just like today, with plenty of aggression, discipline and enthusiasm,” a visibly delighted Tymo said afterwards.
Subs' role for Danijel
On Sunday evening, Danijel Pranjic was an unused substitute as Croatia comfortably beat Ireland 3-1 in Poznan to open their Group C campaign in the best possible manner. Wolfsburg’s Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring early on, and although Sean St Ledger equalised, Nikica Jelavic restored the Croats’ lead and Mandzukic added the third to seal the East Europeans’ deserved victory.