Today at Euro 2012 – Group A takes centre stage
Euro 2012 begins today with Group A taking centre stage, joint hosts Poland meet Greece and Russia meet Czech Republic.
Poland v Greece
The opening match is always a special occasion, and this one will be no different as Co-hosts Poland take on surprise 2004 winners Greece.
Greece are not the force of 2004, as iconic players such as Nikopolidis have retired and the likes of Charisteas and Karagounis are well past their best.
One thing to look forward to for all Greek fans will be the emergence of wonderkid Sotiris Ninis, and whether the once Milan hot prospect Kyriakos Papadopoulos can get out of a group containing the co-hosts and an impressive Russian side.
Poland have emerged as a competitive team in recent years, with players such as Szczesny and Obraniak as well as the Dortmund trio of Piszczek, Blaszczykowski and Lewandowski. These will be the players who can get them out of the group.
Robert Lewandowski has been sensational for the German champions this season, and his goals will be vital if they are to have a good tournament. He is many people’s dark horse bet for the golden boot in his home country.
It is set to be an interesting opener, in which Poland will need to win to take into the big match of the group against the Russians.
Prediction: Poland 2-0 Greece
Czech Republic v Russia
The late kick off of the opening day is between the Euro 1996 Poborsky inspired Czech’s, against the ever improving Russians, who last time out were Semi final losers.
The Czech’s like the Greeks have had a number of key players retire in recent years such as the towering Jan Koller. They will be looking for Tomas Rosicky, to take his impressive Arsenal revival into the tournament.
If he slip back to the form which saw him nearly ousted from the Emirates, it is hard to see Baros and co do enough to get out of the group. Petr Cech may well be as busy as he was for Chelsea at the back end of last season.
Russia are a growing force in European football, and can take inspiration from last year’s successful run to the semi’s. Arshavin has captured some form on loan at Zenit and with the creative talent of Dzagoev behind strikers such as Kerzhakov, Pogrebynak and Pavlyuchenko, it is a safe bet there will be goals.
They have talented players at the back in Akinfeev, Anyukov and Berezutski who will need to keep things tight against the likes of Lewandowski and Samaras in the group.
The Russians are heavy favourites for this tie, and I see them taking a comfortable victory in an Eastern European atmosphere they will be used to.
Prediction: Russia 3-0 Czech Republic