In the final part of his team guide series, football journalist and FIFA gamer Darren Cross reveals his strongest line-ups and tactics for the teams in Group D…
With co-hosts Ukraine, a Sweden team boasting one of the world’s best strikers, the in form-France and an England side with a new manager, Group D will be one of the most interesting to watch at Euro 2012 this summer. It’s also a great group to pick from for FIFA players looking to play online or offline tournaments, as each nation offers a different challenge.
This week we’ll look at my strongest line-ups with all four, kicking off with…
Ukraine are the only unlicensed team at the tournament, but don’t let that put you off – they’ve got match winners in their squad so they’re still good fun to use and are more than capable of progressing against stronger nations.
They start off with a 4-2-3-1 but I change that straight away because they’ve got two very useful strikers and I like to have them both on the pitch. It’s the good old 4-1-2-1-2(1) for me here.
You’ve got a choice of two in goal and personally I go for Sokolski over Demyan as he’s a little quicker and has slightly better handling, but don’t get too used to them. Ukraine gaffer Oleh Blokhin hasn’t named either of their real-life versions in his final squad, so when the in-game squads update soon they’ll be gone.
The best option at right-back is Fedirskyi, but his real-life version doesn’t seem to be in the final squad either. You can use him while he is there or bring in Boiko from the bottom of the squad list, as he did make it.
Next, I bring Mikulak in at LCB and stick with Kachur at RCB. Sub Shynkarskyi is better but he didn’t make Ukraine’s squad either. Finally with the defence, I drop Serhiy and bring Radnovskyi back in to play at left-back, which is his natural position.
Tomaschuk is a destroyer and easily the best choice for the CDM role, where he’ll get to use his excellent ball winning skills. He’s also got a good Long Shot rating, so have a pop at goal with him if you get the chance.
At RM I lose Rohun and select Hudzyk, who faster, a better crosser and will be playing on his strongest side – Rohun is a left footer. LM is an obvious choice… Yehorenko. His real-life version is one of the most exciting players in the Ukraine squad and he’s the best option on the left wing in FIFA terms.
In the hole at CAM I go with Volosin over Andrusiv. Volosin is a more of a forward than a midfielder so he’s a far better finisher and is brilliant at shooting from distance, which is useful in a CAM. He’s passing is very good, too.
Finally, I go with Semochko at RS and Malinskyi at LS. Semochko is a lethal finisher with either foot, and Malinskyi – at 6ft 4in – provides a threat in the air so I look to get him on the end of Hudzyk’s crosses.
So my Ukraine line-up looks like this…
I had a great tournament with Sweden recently, bagging the trophy thanks largely to Zlatan, who comfortably finished as the top scorer. If you’re thinking of playing as Sweden, my advice is to get the ball to Ibrahimovic as much as you can and take as many shots as possible. But more on that in a moment, let’s start with the shape…
Their default formation is 4-4-1-1, but I felt that left Ibrahimovic too isolated so I changed to the trusted 4-1-2-1-2(1), as that seems like a better fit with the players Sweden have.
Isaksson should stay in goal for you. He’s the best keeper in the squad and was almost as important as Zlatan for me in my Swedish campaign, making a series of impossible saves.
You’re pretty much stuck with the RB – Lustig – as he’s the only natural right-back in the squad. He’s not the quickest for a full-back but his height does come in handy at times. At LB Martin Olsson keeps his place for me. Olsson was another important player in my Euro 2012 win as he brings some much-needed pace to the back-four and is capable of whipping in decent crosses when he attacks.
In the centre I stick with Mellberg, who’s a bit slow but is also very strong and wins a lot of headers. To make up for Mellberg’s lack of pace I drop the even-slower Majstorovic and bring in Safari. He’s a left back really but he’s 6ft tall and very quick, so he does a great job in the middle.
Who you go for at CDM will depend on the way you want to play with the players you have. I think it’s vital to play to the strengths of the players, so I went attacking with Sweden and picked a CDM – Kallstrom – who could operate as a deep-lying playmaker. Kallstrom’s got brilliant technical stats and, although he’s not really a CDM in real life, he played very well there for me. If you want to set up to be more cautious then go with Svensson here. He lacks the technical ability of Kallstrom but is much better at winning the ball back.
At RM I bring in Wilhelmsson. He’s not as good as he used to be but has still got plenty of pace, good dribbling ability and he can do 4* skill moves, so he can be a handful. I play Bajrami at LM. There’s not a great deal to choose from between him and the LB Wendt – who can also play on the wing – but I go with Bajrami as he feels a bit more responsive on the ball.
Larsson plays slightly out of position as the CAM for me. He’s a winger really but I like him just behind the front two as he’s got a better Long Shot rating than Rasmus Elm, who just misses out on selection. Elm’s a great player too though and both are brilliant free-kick takers, so either will do a good job for you.
I tried a number of different combinations up front with Sweden but ended up going with Elmander at RS and Ibrahimovic at LS. On paper Toivonen seems more dangerous as he’s more of a threat in the air and better technically than Elmander, but I just got on much better with the former Bolton striker.
Zlatan gets a paragraph to himself, as he’s a joy to use in this game. For starters he feels much quicker than his 73 Acceleration and 79 Sprint Speed would suggest, probably because he’s so strong; Ibrahimovic has 94 for Strength so he’s very hard to knock off the ball. He’s brilliant technically, a top dribbler and can do 5* skill moves, but his best weapon is definitely his shooting. He’s a clinical finisher who can score from inside or outside the box, and my tactic was to have a pop with him whenever I got the opportunity.
Here’s a summary of my Sweden line-up…
Les Bleus are my underdog tip for the finals in real-life. They head into the tournament on a great run of form and, although they’re in a tough group, I can see them doing well. They’re definitely a handful in the game; I’ve had some really tough matches against France recently and I enjoy playing as them too.
France play 4-2-3-1 by default but – at the risk of seeming predictable – I also change them to a 4-1-2-1-2(1). I just find this to be the best formation for the players they have, although they also look good for a 4-3-3 so any of you who prefer that should give it a go.
Lloris starts in goal but France have an excellent back up in Mandanda.
I’ve been using Reveillere at RB as Sagna is injured and hasn’t made the real-life squad. The Arsenal player is better than Reveillere so by all means go with him if you like, I just didn’t want to get used to Sagna at RB and then have to pick Reveillere after the update. Debuchy is also an option here but I prefer the taller Reveillere.
Both centre-backs – Rami and Mexes – lack pace and it’s never a good idea to have two slow players at the heart of your defence, so I drop Rami and bring in Sakho. I also move Mexes to RCB with Sakho at LCB, so both players are on their strongest side. Evra gets the nod for me at LB but it’s worth noting that Clichy is in the provisional France squad, so you may have him as an option here after the update.
At CDM it has to be M’Vila. He’s being linked with pretty much every big club in Europe right now and is perfect for the holding role, where his size, strength and tackling ability shield the back four. If you want more of a playmaker for this role, like I did with Kallstrom for Sweden, then Cabaye is a better passer but I find M’Vila to be the more effective player overall.
At RM I go with pocket rocket Valbuena. He’s quick, a great crosser, good dribbler and can do 4* skill moves. Ribery is of course an option here but I go with him at LM, which is where he plays for Bayern. Franck is a nightmare to play against because he’s so good at running with the ball and has 5* skill moves. He’s got a 4* weak foot too, so he’s fine at LM but you do have the option to bring Malouda in if you want to go with a natural left footer.
Nasri is the CAM and he’s lethal there, thanks to his Balance, Dribbling and Passing abilities. He’s also an excellent finisher and has 4* skill moves.
I move Benzema to RS and I want my LS – Remy, who is good in the air – to be the target for Valbuena’s crosses. Benzema is fast, has great control and a massive 88 for Finishing, so he’ll get you a lot of goals. Remy is even quicker. He has 91 for Acceleration and Sprint Speed so the pair of them are tough to stop.
Here’s my 4-1-2-1-2(1) with France…
Although there were a few surprises in Roy Hodgson’s first England squad, the changes he’s made won’t affect my starting XI too much when the in-game squads update, as most of the players I’ve been using made the cut. Only two players who I’d normally pick won’t be going – Rio and Bent.
England’s default is 4-2-3-1(2) but I don’t like to play with two holders at the expense of a striker when The Three Lions have such good options in the final third, so I go for – wait for it – the 4-1-2-1-2(1) again. I know I’ll get zero points for originality here but I’ll definitely pick up more in-game points for winning matches than I would if I’d stuck with the default.
Hart’s obviously the No.1 and I keep Johnson and Cole in the full-back positions, but I do make changes to the centre-back pairing. Pre-squad announcement I went with Rio and Terry, but seeing as Ferdinand won’t be going I’ve been playing Lescott as Terry’s partner. There’s hardly anything to choose between Lescott and Cahill, but I go with the City player so I can play him on his natural side at LCB with Terry at RCB.
In the holding role it’s Parker over Barry for me. I find Parker to be a better ball winner than Barry and also more useful in possession.
At RM I go with Young. Walcott is obviously an option here but I have another job for him, which I’ll get to in a minute. Young’s a brilliant dribbler and a lethal crosser so I like him out on the right. You may also want to think about The Ox, after the update. Young is better but Oxlade-Chamberlain could make a useful impact sub.
My LM is Stewart Downing. Pre-squad announcement it was close between him and Adam Johnson, and I’d often sub one for the other in games, but Johnson won’t be going to the tournament unless there’s an injury so I’ve been sticking with Downing lately. Like Young he’s fast, good with the ball at his feet, an excellent crosser and plays on his strongest side.
In the hole I choose Steven Gerrard over Frank Lampard but there’s hardly anything between them; both are fantastic passers who are absolutely lethal with shots from range. Gerrard is the quicker of the two so just has the edge for me.
My RS is Theo Walcott. I’ve always liked using Walcott as a striker because he’s so quick – Theo has a massive 97 for Acceleration and 96 for Sprint Speed. I’ve scored a lot of goals with him that I wouldn’t have managed with other players, purely because he gets to the ball when others wouldn’t, so he has to be in there up front for me. Next to him is, of course, Wayne Rooney and I know I don’t need to tell you why I pick him. If you need to mix things up a bit you can drop Rooney to CAM, bring in Andy Carroll for his height and start whipping in crosses. Welbeck and Defoe both make strong back-ups too.
Here’s my England line-up…
Okay, that wraps up the UEFA Euro 2012 Team Guide series. Thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll see you back here next week for more from The Backpage.
As always, thanks for reading and see you next week.
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