Friday, 8 June 2012

EURO 2012: Day One Preview

Lewandowski to grab vital goal for Poland...

By Archie Barnett

The start of the prestigious EURO 2012 trophy beckons, with the first game set to take place in a few hours between co-host Poland and previous EURO champions Greece. Later on this evening, the second game of group A will take place between Russia and Czech Republic.

Robert Lewandowski
Alex Grimm/Getty Images Europe
Poland may be the lowest ranked team in the competition according to the FIFA rankings, but don't be fooled. With the support that surrounds the home nation, the players will certainly feel a buzz of adrenaline circulate throughout their bodies, providing them with an advantage that could play out fairly useful. They also have the support of the Bundesliga Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski up top, who has been firing on all cylinders through the duration of the Bundesliga season. They also have the help of Jakub Blaszczykowski on the wide right, who has played with Lewandowski for Dortmund, providing a lethal front line partnership capable of winning the domestic double in Germany.

Poland should certainly feel a wave of optimism in the build up to the tournament and I strongly believe that they are more than capable of getting through to the following rounds.

Alan Dzagoev
 Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images Europe
Now onto Russia, they are a strong side, one which shouldn't be ignored. They had a brilliant run in the previous EUROs, falling at the Semi-Final stage. What is there to say that they cannot do this again?

Russia host a brilliant defensive record, conceding only 4 goals in 10 qualifying games, seeing them travel to Poland and Ukraine as groups victors. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Roman Pavlyuchenko are possible starters for Russia upfront, however Aleksandr Kerzhakov looks set to start with Andrey Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev behind him. Arshavin has somewhat revived his career since leaving Arsenal and returning to his homeland on loan, scoring 3 goals in 10 league appearances. However, it is not his goal scoring record that will get him noticed, it is his ability to pick out a ball and his renowned flair. Russia will certainly be hoping that he can return to the form that he showed during EURO 2008, as this could be vital for their chances of progression.

However, for me it is Alan Dzagoev that is the man to watch, with his explosive runs and his ability to spot a cross and pass. He is also a decent goal scorer, notching up four goals in eight of his countries EURO 2012 qualifiers, and he will be prevalent in helping Russia through the group stages.

Greece may be suffering failure throughout their economy, but they will be looking to prevent failure on the pitch this time around. Many will remember them coming out as unlikely victors in 2004, however I do not feel this will be the case this year. They also host an impressive defensive record, along with Russia as they have conceded only 5 goals in 10 games. However, their goal scoring record isn't particularly impressive, having netted just 14 times in 10 matches, scraping narrow victories.

Greece are quite a defensive side, and if under pressure they appear to prefer to settle for a draw, rather than push for a win. This ability to grind out vital and narrow results may be vital if they are to progress to the knockout stages. For me, Greece's key man will be Sotiris Ninis, with his vision being a pivotal feature in the side.

Finally, onto Czech Republic. I do not really expect much from the Czech's this time unfortunately. They do not concede many, however lack of talent further up the field means that they do not score many either. I believe that Czech will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation. Petr Cech will have a busy time in goal, and will need to be in top form if Czech are to get out of this group. The draw has been kind to them, because if they got paired up against a high quality opponent such as Spain, I feel that they would be undergoing a damaged limitations task and realistically have no chance. They are likely to go with Tomas Pekhart upfront, with Milan Baros on the bench. For me, the key player for Czech will probably be Tomas Rosicky, playing just behind the strikers and feeding them a constant supply of good quality balls, but the striker will definitely have to be on form.

Today see's Poland play Greece, and Russia play Czech Republic.

Here are my predictions:

Poland 1-0 Greece
Russia 2-1 Czech Republic 

I hope this gets you in the mood for EURO 2012, as it thoroughly prepared me whilst writing this.

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You can also follow Archie on Twitter: @ArchieMCFC

(c) The Sky Blue View 2012

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