Group A, consisting of Poland, Czech Republic, Greece and Russia is probably the hardest to predict in the Euro 2012 group stage. Poland relying on their ‘German’ players with a coach known to experiment and surprise; Greece who will probably bore and depress everyone again; the Czech Republic who seem to be impressing no one heading into the tournament; Russia, with an attacking style but with plenty of egos Dick Advocaat needs to handle.
The co-hosts received a pretty comfortable draw, unlike the Ukraine. But Poland haven’t shown anything in the last week that might suggest their prowess and future dominance in the group. Home advantage does stand for something, but not that match when the quality and parity in the group suggest it won’t be an easy task. Wins over Latvia, Slovakia and Andorra aren’t boosting anyone’s confidence.
What should be boosting their confidence is the Dortmund trio – Robert Lewandowski (42 caps, 14 goals), Captain Jakub Błaszczykowski and Łukasz Piszczek. There’s also the great promise of 19 year old Rafal Wolski on the bench, but the tactical incosistencies of Franciszek Smuda and the defensive problems in three positions might hinder the Poles second Euro tournament.
The Czech’s rarely miss a Euro, but are far from the days of being one of Europe’s most entertaining sides, with the light fading out after Pavel Nedved retired. Their loss to Hungary and less than impressive win over Israel casts doubts over their ability to make it beyond the group stage once again, although most see them as one of the two favorites to go through.
Stars? Maybe by name. Tomas Rosicky is the biggest name and captain, but most have come to expect nothing sensational from the midfielder. Milan Baros does have 40 goals for the national team, but like Rosicky, he never really fulfilled the promise and expectations. Theodor Gebre Selassie is the real engine and motor of this team, while Michael Kadlec will try and steady the shaky defense in front of Petr Cech.
Dick Advocaat will be leaving after this tournament, maybe towards his final job as a head coach at PSV. He was able to bring Russia back to the front stage after the disappointment of missing out on the 2010 World Cup. Advocaat doesn’t offer surprises – He likes attacking football, with the 4-3-3 that has followed him since his earlier days with PSV.
The key? Pretty much the mood of Andrei Arshavin. The team is solid all over, but the one’s who provide the special spark are Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev, who play off of Kerzhakov up front. Many think that the 2008 Euro star doesn’t deserve a spot on the team, but Advocaat is sticking by his captain.
Only two players remain from the historic and shocking 2004 Euro triumph. Still, this is pretty much the same Greek squad in style and purpose. Fernando Santos may deploy a 4-3-3 formation on paper, but there’s hardly a shred of creativity and attacking purpose on this team besides Samaras and Sotiris Ninis, who missed a huge chunk of the season with injury.
While the defense is solid and Greece rely heavily on their two wing backs (Vasilis Torosidis and Jose Holebas) when attacking, there is a problem at goal and even more severe – scoring goals. Greece scored 14 goals during qualifying and rely on the questionable prowess of Samaras, Salpigidis and Gekas to create somewhat of a finishing touch after counter attacks.
Prediction – Toughest group to make out. Still, Poland have a good squad and home support. Out of the other 3, Russia seem like the most talented squad. There’s nothing impressive about the Czech Republic and Greece will struggle too many times creating attacks and scoring. We’ll go with Poland and Russia, who will also enjoy a pretty huge support from their fans.