EURO 2012: Group A Preview

Robert Lewandowski

Poland

The Co-hosts will be looking to match the expectations of their home fans and reach the Quarter-finals of the European championships on their home soil.

After qualifying for the Euros in 2008 for the first time in their history, the Poles had to endure a heart-breaking campaign which saw them eliminated in the group stages after two defeats and a draw.

Despite the fact that they are huge underdogs, it would be foolish to write off the home side, who have a sizeable advantage with most of the crowd behind them. Poland will have little to lose and much to gain as they go into the tournament with key players who have had impressive club campaigns.

The appointment of Coach Francisek Smuda has brought a bit of freshness to a rigid side. Smuda’s attacking brand of football has rejuvenated the team, though deficiencies in defense could be a massive setback for them.

Borussia Dortmund hitman Robert Lewandowski will have the country’s hopes resting on his shoulders. The forward has been in scintillating form this season as he helped his club secure the league title and a domestic cup. With the team built around him, everybody in Poland will be hoping to see his devastating club form for his country.

Other players who have had satisfactory club campaigns and will look to help their nation through to the Quarter-finals are Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny, Dortmund’s Jakub Blaszczykowski and Bordeaux’s Ludovic Obraniak.

Russia

Russia have been a very unpredictable nation in major tournaments. It is almost expected that the Russians will either have a very good tournament or a disastrous one. However, they will be happy to have been drawn in a weak group and will fancy their chances.

The worry will be that key players Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko have been in poor form for their respective clubs this season.

The dynamic duo were the pillars of the national side back in 2008 when the Russians wowed Europe with their attacking brand of football and made it to the semi-finals of the European championships.

Despite the below-par performances for their clubs, both players seem to be performing decently in the national colours. The Russian coach, Dick Advocaat will be hoping that good form continues as he looks to guide his side as far as possible in the competition.

The inspired form of Pavel Pogrebynyak on his short loan spell at Fulham and the sparkling form of Alexander Kerzhakov will also boost the morale of the side.

Czech Republic

The Czechs have been a football powerhouse for a long time, producing a brilliant brand of football and some of the finest players in Europe.

But the days of Koller, Smicer, Poborsky, and Nedved are gone. Since then, the Czech have been plagued with a lack of creativity and scoring prowess.

Captain Tomas Rosicky is one of the few players the side will look to as a creative force. Rosicky will be coming off the back of a strong season with Arsenal that saw his creative brilliance return after being sidelined for large spells due to injuries.

Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech will be another key member of the national team who is in inspiring form having led his club to the Champions League title this season as well as the FA Cup.

However, the worry for the Czech coach Michal Bilek will be the lack of firepower in front of goal. The Czechs have been heavily reliant on their midfield and defence for scoring goals.

The fact that defender Michal Kadlec led the team’s scoring charts during the qualifications with four goals, including three from the penalty spot, illustrates how dire the situation is for Bilek.

With the impressive Tomas Necid just returning from a knee ligament injury and the inefficiency of Tomas Pekhart at the international stage, it looks like Bilek will turn to the veteran forward Milan Baros who is well past his peak.

Lack of creativity and goal-scoring leaves the Czech with little chance of advancing too far in the competition. However, having been drawn in the weakest group of the tournament, Bilek and his men will be looking at least to make it to the knockout stages.

Greece

Greece delivered one of the biggest shocks in world football back in 2004 when they beat Portugal in the finals to win the European championships.

New coach Fernando Santos has been successful in bringing freshness and solidarity back in the team, as the Greeks not only topped their qualifying group but also stayed unbeaten in his first 17 games in charge after replacing Otto Rehhagel in 2010.

Santos will be hoping that his boys replicate the kind of gritty defensive performance they delivered eight years ago if Greece are to progress beyond the group stage at Euro 2012, especially due to their mediocre attacking prowess. Greece will be relying on their old-guard Kostos Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis and Angelos to provide a cutting edge to their attack.

However, midfielder Sotiris Ninis will be expected to be one of the top performers this year. The young Greek has been turning heads with his spectacular performances this season before he was hit with an injury. He is expected to be fully fit for the tournament though and the Greeks will be hoping that the youngster forms a commanding partnership with veteran striker Gekas.

The Defence remains the strength of the Greeks with a good balance of young and experienced defenders such as such as Vassilis Torosidis, Avraam Papadopoulos and Kyriakos Papadopoulos in the squad.

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