Thursday, 24 May 2012

UEFA EURO 2012.. GROUP A: The Forgotten Few

                                               By Carlos Zimmermann
A little look
People are never quite sure what to make of the hosts in a competition, by being granted free access to the tournament the team doesn't quite feel the same emotions in a friendly that you would do in a "squeaky bum time" qualifier. The flip side to this is that the team has no distractions, and has focused all their energies over the last two years on these Euros by picking the friendlies that would best suit their teams evolution, working solely on their own shape and  game plan rather than that of their opponents.The coach has chosen to go out with the old and in with the new, injecting a lot of enthusiasm into the side.

This is a team that are not solid defensively unlike all three of their opponents, but can counter with great pace and energy. The Polish showed how strong they can be with a great display, a 2-2 draw against a strong Germany side who only managed an equaliser in the closing minutes of the game. With their home fans behind them, they may just pole vault themselves over the line into the knock-out stages.

Head Honcho: Franciszek Smuda

Polish-born and holding a German passport, Smuda is sixty-three years old and has spent most of his career managing in Poland. This is his first international job and I'm sure he will enjoy it in his homeland as much as people in Poland will enjoy his attacking style.

Danger Man: Robert Lewandowski

Robert is twenty-three years old and is plying his trade at Borussia Dortmund where, this year, he took full advantage of L. Barrios' injury, starting every league game of this campaign and netting twenty-two goals in the process. He will be Poland's out-and-out striker but with his ability on the ball don't be surprised to see him being a big part of the build up play alongside scoring.

One to Watch: Jakub Blaszczykowski ("Kuba")

Fondly known by his team-mates (and commentators!) as "Kuba", this right midfielder is all action and as direct as a drunken mate at a party. Kuba, who is twenty-six, also benefitted at Borussia Dortmund from Mario Gotze's prolonged absence through injury, starting twenty-two games this year and scoring six goals. He is an honest player who hasn't been booked by club or country this campaign . He has lightening pace and is very suited to the counter-attack that Poland will play. He's always a big part of the national team, netting four goals in the build up to the Euros. 

Euro 2012 Schedule

Poland will play two more games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Slovakia on 26th May and finally against Andora on 2nd June.
 Here are their group games:

Friday 8th June: Poland v Greece, 17:00, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

Tuesday 12th June: Poland v Russia, 19:45, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

Saturday June: Poland v Czech Republic, 19:45, Stadion Miejski (Wroclaw)

Betting Odds

To win outright 66/1

A little look

Russia have gone double Dutch. Guus Hiddink did a great job in Euro 2008 and Dick Advocaat will be hoping for much the same this time around. This Russian team have gone 11 games unbeaten coming into this competition. They boast a good side based around a very strong defence, only conceding four goals in the ten qualifying games and keeping seven clean sheets. The Russians are a very proud nation and will not want to slip up, especially in Poland. They would expect to qualify being favourites of the group.

Head Honcho: Dick Advocaat

Advocaat, 64, is known as the "little general" and has been leading his players for twenty-five years now, taking him from Holland to Scotland, Germany, and Russia. He has also managed at an international level being part of the Netherlands set-up as well as coaching United Arab Emirates, Korea Republic, Belgium and now trying his hand at the Russian National Team. Russia has bought him his biggest success with Zenit. He won the UEFA Europa League in 07/08 along with the Super Cup the following season. We should expect the team to be organised and passing well.

Danger Man: Alexander Kerzhakov

Many would expect R. Pavlyuchenko to start up front with his four goals in seven games, but I believe Kerzhakov will get the nod. With Andrey Arshavin recently coming back to Zenit, they have sparked up a great understanding together which could be crucial at international level. Kerzhakov has scored twenty-three goals this season but because of injury he only managed to start five out of the ten games, although he has scored two goals for the national team. He's the third highest goal-scorer in the Russian National team's history. 

One to Watch: Alan Dzagoev

He is an interesting young talent, at only twenty-one he has been a big part of CSKA Moskva team for the last four years. he put in some top performances in all eight of their champions League games this year, getting his name on the score sheet to boot. More impressively, he has got 4 goals in 6 starts for the national team. He plays in the pocket behind the strikers and his clever and fast feet always make him a danger to the oppositions defence.

Euro 2012 Schedule

Russia will play three games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Uruguay on 25th May the second against Lithuania on 29th May and lastly Italy, on 1st June, seven days before their first match. Here are their group games:
Friday 8th June, Russia v Czech Republic, 19:45 Stadion Miejski, (Wroclaw)

Tuesday 12th June Russia v Poland 19:45, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

Saturday 16th June Russia v Greece, 19:45, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)

Betting Odds

To win outright 20/1

A little look

This Greece team will be hard opponents  to break down. They only conceded 5 goals in qualifying for the Euro's. This came at the expense of their own score card, scoring as little as 14 goals in 10 games in a group that didn't boast strong sides. They have not managed to score more than three in a game for near on 30 matches now, and when they do score it tends to be in the last 30 minutes of the game; in fact 70% come at this late stage. The  lack of fire power could be their downfall along with the fact that they received 27 yellow cards on route to the Euro's, more than any other club participating  in the event. If they can keep everyone on the pitch, and with a lot of luck, they may just qualify, but we are  more than likely to see a Greek tragedy.  
Head Honcho; Fernando Santos

Fernando is 57 and is known as the "The Mechanic", with his tactics first, technical ability second philosophy.  This could well be helped by the fact that he has trained with around 80% of the squad in his club career which has lead him to taking control in Portugal and spending seven years in Greece, where he took  PAOK to champions league qualification in 2010.     
Danger Man:Vassilis Torosidis
You may be asking where is G.Samaras; yes he is a danger, but only to himself. When Samaras plays, one could be forgiven for thinking he's lucky not to get sent off for two yellow cards for time wasting each time he receives the ball. His one goal in qualifying takes him off this list in my books. The fall-back Torosidis will be easy to spot as he will be the only player in the back line without papa at the start of his name. He looks like a strong talent that has turned scouts eyes his way. As well as being solid at the back, he has come up with some important goals, double the goals of Samaras this campaign. 

One to Watch: Kyriakos Papadopoulos
This tank of a man is a very interesting talent and has had a very good year with Schalke 04. He is in the mould of an old style defender with an injection of the new in his game too. Kyriakos plays at center back and is capable of stepping out with the ball as he can play defensive midfield. Impressively he had scored within the first 30 minutes of his international début cementing his place in the squad for the last four games, netting once more for his country in that time.     
Euro 2012 Schedule
Greece will play two games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Slovenia on 25th May and the second against Armenia on the 30th of May.
Here are their group games:
Friday 8th June:Greece v Poland, 17:00, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)
Tuesday 12th June Greece v Czech Republic,17:00, Stadion Miejski (Warclaw)
Saturday 16th June Greece v Russia, 19:45, Stadion Narodowy (Warszawa)
Betting Odds

To win outright 80/1
                                                       Czech Republic 
A little look:
The Czechs reached the Euro's via the play-off's beating Montenegro 3-0 over two legs. They were in one of the small groups with Spain, and the play-off's seemed like their most likely route to the Euro's. This team managed to keep 6 clean sheets out of 10 games, which isn't bad but they too struggle hitting the back of the net, scoring only 15 times. They keep things compacted and play centrally with the attacking full-backs giving them width when needed. The massive bonus this team has is that they will play all their games in the Stadion Miejski Wroclaw, which is located near the Czech boarder. Make no mistake, it will be tough.        
Head Honcho: Michal Bilek
At 47 he is the youngest manager in this group. He had spent most of his playing career in the Czech Republic with Sparta Prague where he won the double in his first year, but that was not enough for him to keep his job. He seems just as popular with the national squad with 90 odd per cent wanting him sacked. Michal has the help of  former Liverpool player Vadimir Smicer as team coach, will many hands make light work or will this be the load that broke the donkeys back. 
Danger Man: Petr Cech
After a shaky start to the season Cech has finally found his feet- or hands in this case- coming on strong in the later part of the season.Trying to beat this giant of a man will be tough as he will seem and feel a few feet bigger after his exploits in this years champions league run which he came out on top. It's hard  seeing the same this time around though.

One to Watch:Michal Kadlec

Michal is applying his trade at Bayer Leverkusen where he plays at left-back. For the national side, he has started all 10 games scoring 4 goals without being booked, and being the penalty taker has help him reach this target.
Euro 2012 Schedule
Will play two games before the competition kicks off, the first being against Israel on 26th May the second against Hungary on the 31th of May.
Here are their group games:
Friday 8th June, Russia v Czech Republic, 19:45 Stadion Miejski, (Wroclaw)
Tuesday 12th June Greece v Czech Republic,17:00, Stadion Miejski (Warclaw)
Saturday 16th June: Poland v Czech Republic, 19:45, Stadion Miejski (Wroclaw)
Betting Odds:
To win outright 66/1

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