RWD’S EURO 2012 PREVIEW: GROUP A

Casting an expert eye over Group A's Poland, Russia, Greece and Czech Republic...

7 years ago

By Teg

With Euro 2012 kicking off in Warsaw tonight, we cast an expert eye over Group A’s Poland, Russia, Greece and Czech Republic. Can Poland defend? Can Russia run? Can Greece score? We think we’ve got the answers.

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With Euro 2012 kicking off in Warsaw tonight, we cast an expert eye over Group A’s Poland, Russia, Greece and Czech Republic. Can Poland defend? Can Russia run? Can Greece score? We think we’ve got the answers.

We’ll never know whether this Poland team would have qualified for Euro 2012 had they not been hosts, but having qualified for their first European Championships last time around, their hunger would have made them a decent bet.

Key Player
The standout name in the Polish XI is Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal’s [over?] confident young goalkeeper, who despite overall praise for his fish to water start to life in the Premier League is still susceptible to shots from distance and Gooners will tell you his kicking leaves a lot to be desired. The European Championships are a natural place for the personality and obvious talents of Szcesny to shine though.

Where will the goals come from?
Robert Lewandowski was named Bundesliga Player of the Season this year and is fresh from Borussia Dortmund’s title charge chipping in with a solid 22 league goals [30 overall]. Lewandowski has 13 goals for the national team but will rely on Ludovic Obraniak to unlock defenses in Group A if Poland are to progress.

How far will they go?
Poland have a good chance of progressing through the group stages but it will take a level of defensive fortitude not seemingly available in the side to take them any further. They’re hosts though, so anything is possible.

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RUSSIA

 

Semi-finalists in 2008, Russia have kept the bulk of their squad together for Euro 2012 and boast a squad mainly made-up of domestic league players mainly coming from CSKA Moscow and Zenit.

 

Key Player

 

Alan Dzagoev is the player most people will have their eye on this summer, much as they did Andrey Arshavin in 2008, but in stark contrast to the Arsenal man, Dzagoev prides himself on his work-rate and his ability to motivate the players around him. At 21 years-old he’s far from the finished article, but will be expected to add a dynamism to Russia’s game as they attempt to navigate Group A.

 

Where will the goals come from?

 

In Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak, Russia have goals. A lack of pace perhaps, but the craft of Andrey Arshavin will create chances. Pavlyuchenko is expected to lead the line at Euro 2012 but Pogrebnyak’s post-Christmas goal-scoring run could see him play David Villa to Roman’s Fernando Torres as the tournament progresses.

 

How far will they go?

 

A return to the semi-finals may seem a long-shot as things stand [the tale of the team-sheet says there are at least four stronger teams in the tournament] but in Greece, Poland and Czech Republic there are goals to be got in Group A and should they start flying in, the confidence gained could prove vital. A Quarter-Final place is realistic.

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GREECE

The worst team to ever win a major international tournament. Whether or not Greece care for that tag, they’ve got the trophy and as their Euro 2004 performances proved, that’s all that matters. The only major football nation to never produce an elite player, Greece will defend this summer and they’ll probably do it quite well, they have to, they’re relying on Georgios Samaras to score the goals.

Key Player

Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Pictured) [23] and Kyriakos Papadopoulos [20] will cause commentators trouble this summer, but the young central defensive partnership will be asked to provide the protection Greece so sorely need. They won’t make many YouTube highlight packages, but if Greece are to make it through Group A, these two will almost inevitably be their best players.

Where will the goals come from?

Georgios Samaras. Okay, all joking aside; Georgios Samaras. Theofanis Gekas may have only made the one appearance in Portsmouth’s final Premier League season and may well be plying his trade at the glamour-free Turkish side Samsunspor, but if he can recapture the magic that saw him light-up Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen [for an admittedly brief period] a few years back then Greece might just register on the score-sheet this summer. We’re not holding our breath though.

How far will they go?

If Greece make it through Group A then coach Fernando Santos deserves a knighthood, or whatever the Greek equivalent would be. The crumbling national economy and growing mood of discontent could do with another 2004, but we can’t see it.

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CZECH REPUBLIC

The nearly men of Europe, Czech Republic should have been Greece in 2004 but fell to an extra time heart-breaker in the semi-finals and have struggled to build a team of similar quality in the years since.

Key Player

Tomas Rosicky is always expected to produce for his national team and following a strong season at Arsenal [his first since arriving in 2006? Possibly] expectations will be higher than ever. The difference between supplying that crucial pass to the deadly Robin van Persie and doing enough to help Milan Baros score is obvious for all to see, but were he 10 years younger, Rosicky’s end-of-season form would have made waves in European football, so don’t rule it out.

Where will the goals come from?

Milan Baros? So he traipsed around the Premier League not doing much for more years than we care to remember, but let’s not forget he’s a Champions League winner [so is Salomon Kalou] and he seems to be enjoying life in Turkey, claiming the title with Galatasaray this season. A world class striker he is not, though, and the Czech’s key player Rosicky has a well known adversity to pulling the trigger. Where for art thou Jan Koller?

How far will they go?

The Czechs will hope to seize on any potential weakness in the Poland side as they fight for second place in Group A. Whether or not they succeed will probably come down to a straight shoot-out when the sides face in Municipal Stadium on June 16.