Greece plays Poland after qualifying first in their group with a total of 24 points. In second place, in that same group, is Croatia. Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta round out the rest of this group (Malta only got 1 point in the entire qualifying round). You can’t really call that a high difficulty group, which is why Greece is not a major favorite for this Cup. They qualified to the Euro with a total of 14 goals scored and only 5 goals against.
Greece is no stranger to Euro Cup glory…they raised the Cup as champions back in 2004 when the Euro was hosted by Portugal. They won the first game to Portugal, but then began to struggle. With a good amount of effort and a hint of luck, they managed to squeeze their way into the finals against their host, Portugal. They surprised all of Europe with a glorious win over the host country.
Then we have Poland – since they are hosts, they didn’t have to play during the qualifying round. Some argue this helps the hosting teams because it allows them to play stress free. Others affirm that all the practice against tough teams is what makes a winning team. Relaxed or not, they played some friendly matches with no losses. The last match was played against Andorra; they beat them 4-0. Before the match with Andorra in May, they played Slovakia and also beat them 1-0. The most difficult friendly match they’ve had recently was in February against Portugal with a final score of 0-0.
I can’t really pick a favorite on this match. None of them are really in the spotlight right now when it comes to playing skills. It is important to remember that Poland will be at home as they are co-hosts with the Ukraine for this Euro, with the opening game played in Warsaw. They will have the crowd cheering which will add that extra pressure to play a good game and give this inaugural game crowd the show they deserve.
This game is one of the more exciting of the Group A match-ups. Both teams have high hopes entering this Euro Cup. During the last Cup, these two teams were both in the same group where they played a consolation game and tied at 3 goals apiece. Both teams have surpassed most expectations over the last few years in preparation, not only for this event, but for the upcoming World Cup 2014. Russia is coming off some interesting friendlies and will be bringing their star player, Aleksandr Anyukov. The Czech Republic will have their secret weapon protecting the goal for them, team captain Petr Cech, who is the starting goalie for the English Premiere League Chelsea team.
Russia is also bringing back their lead scorer from the Euro Cup 2008, Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored 3 goals for his home team. The Russian team is coming off a win over the Italian team 3-0. This helped improve their striking game as well as boosted their confidence entering their first game against Uruguay, who is always at the top of their game. Russia is currently ranked 11th overall by FIFA and will be under the direction of Coach Dick Advocaat. They will be counting on their two most experienced Russian players, Viktor Onopko and Sergei Ignashevich, who have played over 30 international games.
The Czech Republic is ranked 26th overall by FIFA. To them, that seems to mean nothing as they have trained harder and more aggressively than ever before and seem more than ready for the challenges ahead. In their last friendly, they lost 0-1 at the hands of Hungary. They did play a great game against the Republic of Ireland where it ended tied at one goal apiece. Their top field man is Jan Koller, who has more than 35 international games under his belt, as well as more than 21 goals scored. The Russians will have to find a way around goalie Petr Cech, who has played these last few months at the top of his game and has proven to be one of the elite goalkeepers in all of Europe.
I like Russia in this game, but I see it being close. The big doubt on the Czech side will be their defense and how long they can keep the Russians out of the area. For the Russians, it will be controlling the tempo, because if the Czech Republic starts commanding the play, it will be a very long afternoon for the Russians. I see this game ending in a 2-0 score with Russia taking the win.