With the Euro 2012 fast approaching, we’ve begun dedicating special coverage on the event with a comprehensive Euro 2012 blog series. I kicked off the first entry in our series with a little overview of history of the Euro, but now let us dive into what the future might hold with a preview of the teams in the group stages. This time around, the focus is on Group A, which contains Poland, Greece, Russia (the team I’ll be supporting), and the Czech Republic.
Currently sitting at 65 in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings, this tournament marks co-host Poland’s second Euro appearance. Their 2008 campaign stalled in the group stages of the tournament and was followed by a lacklustre failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Although not a powerhouse, Poland has a lot of young talent and the 2012 Euro will be an interesting test to see how well the team may be able to develop together. Additionally, it is never a smart bet to underestimate a host team as history has shown that playing at home in an international tournament has helped many a side.
One player in particular to watch on the pitch for Poland is striker Robert Lewandowski. The 23-year-old forward has been an absolute force for German club Borussia Dortmund, and played no small part in helping the club secure the Bundesliga title this year. Lewandowski was named the Bundesliga’s player of the year for 2011 and gives Poland a serious scoring threat.
Also of note will be the fight between club teammates Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański for the number one goalkeeper spot. Both play for Arsenal in the English Premier League, where the younger Szczęsny has edged out Fabiański for the top spot.
Technically speaking, Greece is the only Euro winner in Group A (more on that to come). The currently 14 ranked team in the world has tasted Euro victory with a surprise 2004 victory at the Portugal hosted tournament. In that tournament, Greece was also in Group A with Russia and a host country, so fans are doubtlessly hoping that Greece’s current group placement is a fortuitous sign.
Greece is seeking a serious recovery from their 2008 Euro efforts, which saw them become the first defending champion to not earn a single point in the following championship. Their main weapon for this tournament will most likely be Theofanis Gekas. The 31-year-old striker has been doing well as of late and was top scorer in the EUFA section of the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers.
The 11 ranked FIFA team in the world has been wildly inconsistent on the international stage and after a failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup has been holding on to its third place finish in the 2008 Euros as its main success. Following that, an influx of Russian players was seen in other European leagues, but their play has been similarly inconsistent, with an alarming amount returning to the Russian league.
Russia still has the talent from its third-place finish, but has not had the momentum as of late. Russia’s fortunes may rest mostly with sparkplug winger Andrei Arshavin. Arshavin is Russia’s best all around player, though his recent play was poor enough to merit a loan return to former club Zenit St. Petersburg. With Arshavin playing well, Russia is a dynamic team capable of multivariate attack. Without a strong performance from the captain, Russia will be hard-pressed to make it out of its group. Fun fact, as part of the Soviet Union, Russia won the first ever Euro in 1960.
Like Russia, the Czech Republic has been part of a winning side when Czechoslovakia took home top honours in the 1976 tournament. Currently, FIFA has the Czech side pegged at 26, but the Czech Republic has the (albeit aging) talent to play way above its ranking. Goalkeeper Peter Cech is coming off of Champions League success with Chelsea FC and is widely recognized as one of the best netminders in the world. The Czechs also have midfielder Tomáš Rosický and forward Milan Baroš, who at 30 and 31, respectively, give the squad veteran leadership and proven talent.
Who do you see coming out of Group A? Let us know below! Be sure to keep following our Euro 2012 blog series as we cover the rest of the groups and some betting strategies/tips.
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group C
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group D
- Euro 2012 Preview: Group B
- Ready for Kick Off? A Brief Introduction to the 2012 Euro
- Betfred Goes All Out for Euro 2012