Tuesday June 19
By Nick Ames in Kiev
In a few hours’ time we’ll know a great deal more about Arsenal’s representation in the latter stages of Euro 2012.
Currently it’s Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and - pending injury - Tomas Rosicky who fly the flag, but that tally could be doubled by the day’s end. Down in Donetsk, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain know that a point against host nation Ukraine will ensure their continued involvement, while Laurent Koscielny’s France are in a similar position here in Kiev against a Swedish team with just pride left to play for.
Few Ukrainians I’ve met give their side, which needs to win, much chance against Roy Hodgson’s team but I’d be surprised if there weren’t at least one or two twists en route to safe passage.
France’s job looks fairly straightforward - not least because the highly-impressive number of Swedish fans here seems to have waned a little - and they’ll only have a problem if the Swedes and Ukrainians both win. Laurent Koscielny looks likely to have to wait a little longer for any action this summer, with Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami having done enough in the win over Ukraine to ensure their continued involvement at centre back.
Whoever wins the group - and France are currently better off by one goal - will avoid a meeting with Spain, which would take place in Donetsk on Saturday. The Spaniards were on the rack at times against Croatia last night, but the scooped assist that Cesc Fabregas provided for their winner will have been a familiar sight for Arsenal fans.
It’s yet another beautiful day in this Ukrainian summer, but I’ve plenty on my plate before making tracks for the Olympic Stadium. Journalists apply for knockout games at a major tournament as they are confirmed; I’d made my interest in the Czechs’ quarter-final with Portugal known straight after Tomas’s side qualified, and heard last night that I’ll be attending that match in Warsaw two days from now. Fingers crossed that the Arsenal schemer’s return to Prague for treatment on his Achilles injury will have paid dividends.
With any luck, that will be followed by a return to Ukraine for another game - depending on what happens tonight. One Arsenal angle I’ve been pursuing during this tournament is that of Oleg Luzhny, a favourite son of Ukraine who was a big part of Dynamo Kiev’s fantastic side of the 1990s before joining the Gunners in 1999. Sadly, it doesn’t seem I’ll be able to catch up with Oleg - he’s just been named manager of Crimean side Tavria Simferopol, signing a three-year deal with the side that finished sixth in the country’s top flight last season.
Much as a trip down to the Black Sea would be agreeable, it might be a step too far this summer. There’d be no such thing as that in the minds of our English and French representatives this evening, though - here’s hoping they all make it through.
EURO 2012 BLOG ARCHIVE:
- Per proved right on Podolski
- Czechs keep their composure
- Electric Walcott makes his mark
- Kiev gets ready for England
- Dejected Dutch on the brink
- A decisive day for the Dutch
- Beaming Ox makes his mark
- Sun, streams and slagheaps
- Diligent Danes reap reward
- The Dutch and the Danes
- Running the rule over Robin
- From Gatwick to Kharkiv