France – Group Record: 2-0-1, advances to quarters
After France’s very public and disastrous implosion at the 2010 World Cup, there were questions as to whether the once-great soccer nation could reemerge as a viable contender in 2012. While we’re not quite ready to put them in the running with the Spain and Germany sides quite yet, there is a sense that the French squad has retooled effectively during the two-year down period, even if it meant setting some of bigger egos and talent aside. Up front they still have Franck Ribéry, who’ll be joined by star strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, and their backfield is flush with stars from the premier league, but the question will be whether their inexperienced midfielders can create sufficient opportunities in the transition game.
Sweden – Group Record: 2-1-0, advances to quarters
Never known as a football powerhouse, Sweden could emerge as a surprise elimination round entry after being grouped with English and French sides that have been disappointing in recent international tournaments. Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is largely considered to be one of the best attacking talents in the game, one of those rare players who can create opportunities for himself, but he should get some help anyway from up-and-coming midfielder Rasmus Elm. If France and England draw and Sweden can take at least one of the games against them, they might just sail through to the quarter-finals.
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