The UEFA Euro 2012 Preview

Group A

Poland

Poland made it's first appearance at a European Championships in 2008 and it would be fair to say that they didn’t exactly set the world alight – taking just one point from their three group games.  This year they enter with more optimism. Not only will they have the home crowd behind them, as co-hosts of the tournament, but they have lost just one of their last eight games. 

Key men:  Wojciech Szczesny – Arsenal’s goalkeeper is a real figurehead for the Polish team, and is rated by many as one of the best young keepers in world soccer.  Robert Lewandowski – The young striker, who currently plays in Germany for Borussia Dortmund, is attracting the attention of Europe’s top clubs. Poland will be hoping he lives up to the hype. 

Outlook: The passionate home support with power the Poles into the knockout stage.

Russia

A team that promised so much after an impressive showing at Euro 2008 has fizzled out to nothing.  Russian fans will be desperate for their big names – Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko – to regain some form and steer their aging squad through the group. 

Key man:  Andrey Arshavin – Technically still an Arsenal player, but seemingly on his way out, Arshavin will be keen to show he’s still got the skill that made him one of the stars of Euro 2008. 

Outlook: It’ll be very close, but Russia should sneak out of the group.

Greece

In soccer there’s a saying about teams like Greece: Park the bus. Meaning, get as many players as possible behind the ball to stop the opposition scoring, and hope to get a lucky goal at the other end.  It can be effective, they won Euro 2004 using exactly those tactics, but times have changed. Unless they can find an unexpected creative spark, their chances of progressing to the knockout stage are slim. 

Key man:  Georgios Samaras – The Celtic striker is possibly their only chance of scoring goals, which are kind of important in soccer. 

Outlook: Sorry Greece, you’re going home.

Czech Republic

Organized in defence but fairly impotent going forward, it is hard to see much room for optimism among fans of the Czech Republic. They desperately need to find a way to score goals, but it is hard to see it happening. 

Key men:  Petr Cech – Chelsea’s goalkeeper will head to Poland on a high, having just won the Champions League. On his day, he’s one of the best in the world.  Tomas Rosicky – If this team are going to score goals, this man will need to be firing on all cylinders. On form, the Arsenal midfielder can provide much needed creative spark. 

Outlook: Making it out of the group would be a huge achievement.

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