Co-hosts Poland and Greece begin proceedings on day one of Euro 2012, when they face off at the Polish capital of Warsaw, on Friday, May 8, 2012. The match will be followed by Russia playing Czech Republic, in Wroclaw, to wrest the initiative in Group A.
Russia and Czech Republic have traditionally been considered as dark horses of European football; while neither team may win the tournament, both are capable of ruining the plot for other aspirants. the teams have met just once, when they met in Euro 1996 to play out a 3-3 draw. Heading into this game, Russia beat Italy 3-0 in a pre-competition warm up, while Czech Republic lost 2-1 to Hungary.
Following a brilliant Euro 2008, in which they reached the semi-finals, Russia failed to qualify for the FIFA world Cup in 2010. But the team is recently on the ascendant under the stewardship of Dick Advocaat. the Zenit St Petersburg midfielder, Shirokov, who starred with a brace, in his side’s 4-0 drubbing of Italy, in the warm up, could prove the key, on Friday. In Igor Denisov, Russia have a brilliant midfielder to partner Shirokov. The third midfield spot in a 4-3-3 formation could go to either of Zyryanov or Glushakov. in bad news for Russia, their star of 2008, Andrei Arshavin has been in bad form, recently. Out of favour at Arsenal, he was loaned out to Zenit.
If Russia have disappointed in the last four years, Czech Republic have had an even longer run of mediocre performances. The 2004 semi-finalists, who have fallen to 26th in the FIFA world rankings, have not got past the group stage in any competition since 2004. Michal Bilek, as their manager, did well to shepherd the side through the Euro qualification games, mainly on the back of a good showing by the team’s younger players. Youngsters like Jiracek, Rezek, Pilar and Selassie who have together played just 35 internationals. In Cech, the side has a great goalkeeper, fresh from his exploits in Chelsea’s champions league triumph.
But the team has palpable weaknesses both in attack and central defence. Star striker Milan Baros has slowed down in recent years, and the weakness in central defence could lead a desperate Bilek to replace out of form Hubnik with left-back Kadlec.
While play maker Denisov could call the shots for Russia on Friday, Rosicky in a similar role could prove the go-to man for Czech Republic. Apart from breaking up the play in the middle of the field, Denisov lends protection to he defenders, a prime reason why Russia has a solid back-line going into the competition.
Russia’s probable eleven: Malafeev, Anyukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Denisov, Shirokov, Zyranov, Arshavin, Kerzhakov, Dzagoev.
Czech republic’s probable eleven: Cech, Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky, Hubschman, Plasil, Rezek, Rosicky, Pilar, Baros.
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Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.