At the time of writing this, there are 38 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes, and 55 seconds until the start of Euro 2012, but hey, who’s counting? I, for one, am anxiously awaiting the beginning of the tournament, since it is the best international tournament after the World Cup. Therefore I have decided to put together a four-part preview series, talking about each group at the Euro’s.
First up, since alphabetical order is the most logical order, is Group A. Group A consists of Greece, Russia, Czech Republic, and Poland. Other than Poland, each team in this group has tasted European success one time in the tournaments history. Greece is the most recent winner, having won the tournament in 2004. The Czech Republic won the tournament in 1976. Russia won the Euro’s in 1960. Poland has never won and has only qualified once in 2008. They are hoping the home crowd can carry them to European glory.
The first team to discuss is Greece . In 2004, Greece stunned everyone and were crowned champions of Europe. However, their next performance did not go so well. At Euro 2008, Greece failed to win a single game and scored one goal, not making it out of the group stage. Now, it looks as though they have recovered from their poor performance and have had a good qualifying campaign. Out of the 10 games they played to qualify, they won seven, drew three, and didn’t lose a single match. They also scored 14 goals, while allowing only 5. Therefore, it looks as though they have restored their ability to find the back of the net.
Russia is the next team to discuss. Their last appearance in the tournament was 2008, when they had an amazing run to the semi-finals. They lost to the eventual champions Spain, but it helped gain some fans for Russia, as well as put players on the map, such as Andrei Arshavin. Russia, like Greece, had a very successful qualifying campaign. They won seven matches, drew two, and lost once. They scored 17 goals while conceding only four. It will be interesting to see if Russia will be able to make a similar run again without Guus Hiddink at the helm.
The Czech Republic had an identical qualifying record as Russia, which is quite extraordinary. They won seven matches, drew two, and lost only once. They also scored 17 goals, while only conceding four. This should make the Russia vs. Czech Republic game extremely interesting since, statistically, they are identical. The Czech Republic are also looking to rebound from a poor 2008 tournament, where they failed to make it out of the group stage.
Finally, we get to the host country. Since the hosts automatically qualify for the tournament, Poland did not have to go through a qualifying campaign. Instead, they opted to play friendlies against some tough opponents. Some good results from friendlies included beating both Argentina and the Ivory Coast. They also drew against Germany, Mexico, Portugal, and South Korea. Even though they did not have to qualify, they played some quality opponents to prepare for Euro 2012. Poland, before this tournament, has only made one appearance in the Euro’s. In Euro 2008, they failed to make it out of the group stage in their sole appearance.
Even though this group does not feature the big names that other countries have, these matches should be interesting and fun to watch. All of the teams involved in this group have had similar qualifying campaigns. They have scored a good amount of goals, while not conceding many, which is always a good idea when you are trying to win a tournament. Therefore, I do not see any 5-0 games, but rather 1-0 or 2-1 type games. If I had to make a prediction on who will advance, I would have to go with Russia and Poland. Even though this is only the second time Poland have played in the tournament, I think the home crowd will propel them through the group stage. I also think Russia has the quality to make it out of the group stage. This should be an interesting group to keep an eye on and all the games should be close and intense.
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
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