Euro 2012 Group A preview
Published: 08.06.12 / Written by: David Gold
Group A of the European Championships is perhaps the most unclear to predict.
Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece will all harbour hopes of going through and all have different things going for them.
On paper Russia are the strongest team. They had a superb Euro 2008 when they reached the semi finals of that competition, but have not hit the same heights since .They still have the bulk of the team which reached the last four in Austria and Switzerland, with the enigmatic Andrei Arshavin captain and Roman Pavlyuchenko still around.
They have plenty of experience in their ranks and a solid defence, though Vasili Berezutsky’s absence through injury will be a blow. But with Igor Akinfeev in goal and Sergei Ignashevich at the back, Russia have plenty of solidity and a good back line.
This will make them slight favourites, as the Czechs and Greeks both struggle for goals. The Greek team is more attacking than the one which was shock winners of the Euros in 2004, but they still struggle to find the net. They have good wingers in Ioannis Fetfatzidis and Sotiris Ninis, but are still reliant on Giorgos Samaras and other underwhelming forwards. But they do have experience; Theo Zagorakis has retired but Giorgios Karagounis still plays on and goes strong, as well as Kostas Katsouranis.
The Czechs too will be hoping that one of their strikers, be it Tomas Necid or Tomas Pekhart, can start finding the net regularly, or Milan Baros to rediscover the form of 2004. Tomas Rosicky is their key man going forward but he is struggling with injury. The Czechs’ top scorer in qualifying was a left back, and that says much about them.
Then there are the hosts. Poland can spring a shock and win this group. They have all the ingredients required. Łukasz Piszczek, captain Jakub Błaszczykowski (pictured above) and prolific forward Robert Lewandowski are their brilliant trio from Borussia Dortmund. Lewandowski in particular has been prolific and is one of the best forwards in Europe right now. He can puncture any defence, and his goals can help them beat Russia.
At the other end, with Wojciech Sczcesny, they have a goalkeeper capable of winning them key games with huge saves. If they find themselves in a tight game during the competition, they will be confident with him protecting the goal and keeping their opponents out.
It will be a tight group though which all the teams struggle to get out of. Do not expect a huge amount of goals, and all teams will feel as though they have a real chance of progressing to the last eight. But whoever does will likely face Germany or the Netherlands. Such a task will ensure that whomever progresses will probably have a brief knockout phase.
1 – Poland
2 – Russia
3 – Greece
4 – Czech Republic