Euro 2012 Group A Preview

The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship is just 64 days away! Between now and when the tournament eventually gets under way on June 8th 2012, we will be taking a look at all of the teams, the coaches and the star players, providing you with as much information as possible to help you pick out the best Euro 2012 bets. We’ll kick our Euro 2012 preview off with Group A…

Euro 2012 Group A
Czech Rep
Greece
Poland
Russia

Euro 2012 Group A Fixture List
(All times listed are UK – British Summer Time)

June 8 - 5pm
Poland vs Greece
National Stadium, Warsaw

June 8 – 7.45pm
Russia vs Czech Rep
Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

June 12 – 5pm
Greece vs Czech Rep
Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

June 12 – 7.45pm
Poland vs Russia
National Stadium, Warsaw

June 16 – 7.45pm
Czech Rep vs Poland
Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw

June 16 – 7.45pm
Greece vs Russia
National Stadium, Warsaw

The Teams

Czech Republic
To win Euro 2012: 67.00 (SportingBetBoyleSports, Ladbrokes)
To win Group A: 5.00 (BoyleSportsLadbrokes, Stan James)
Current FIFA Rank: 29
Best performance: Runner Up (1996); Winners as Czechoslovakia (1976)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 2nd, Group I (Play-Offs)

Coach: Michal Bílek
Bílek has been involved in the Czech setup for some time now, having coached the U-19 team and been assistant to former head coach Ivan Hašek, before taking the top job late in 2009. Plenty of people have doubted Bílek’s ability, particularly during a tricky Euro 2012 Qualification campaign, but in recent matches his side have improved and shown a new resolve.

Key Player: Tomáš Rosický
The attacking midfielder has been instrumental in Arsenal’s recent return to form, while on the international front, Rosický has a useful haul of 20 goals from his 85 caps. A vastly experienced international player, Rosický will most probably captain the Czech Republic side. He missed Euro 2008 through injury and it is no coincidence that his country struggled to perform to their best.

The Czechs made hard work of their qualification campaign but ended strongly, thumping Lithuania 4-1 away from home, before winning their Euro 2012 Play-Off against Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate. A recent friendly match against Ireland ended 1-1 and Czech fans, who have been vocal in their complaints about coach Bílek, can now be much more positive about escaping from Group A and reaching the Euro 2012 Knockout stages – especially after receiving a very kind draw. However, while Greece and Russia may not quite be Germany and Spain, the Czechs will still have tough time finishing in the top two of Group A, and with Poland benefiting from home advantage, they might do very well to avoid finishing last.

Greece
To win Euro 2012: 67.00 (SportingBetBetVictorCoral)
To win Group A: 5.50 (BoyleSports, Bet365)
Current FIFA Rank: 13
Best performance: Winners (2004)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 1st, Group F

Coach: Fernando Santos
Portuguese born Fernando Santos was appointed as Greek national coach in July 2012, replacing outgoing boss Otto Rehhagel. His biggest achievements came at Porto in the late 1990s, but Santos has won a Greek Cup and is credited with the resurgence of PAOK, who he guided to the Champions League. Prior to his appointment as Greece coach, Santos had been voted “Coach of the Decade” by the Greek Football League.

Key Player: Vasilis Torosidis
This pacy and energetic full back has been tracked by some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Bayern and Juventus – and it’s easy to see why. Highly versatile, Torosidis can also play in midfield as well as in defence, and he has an eye for goal, as he proved when scoring Greece’s first ever goal at the World Cup in 2010. Torosidis has a total of five goals in 43 international appearances and recently won his fifth Greek Super League title with Olympiakos, where he is club captain.

Greece qualified for Euro 2012 unbeaten, including a surprise 2-0 victory over Croatia and were recently ranked as high as 8th in the world by FIFA, their joint-highest ranking ever. It is tough to write the Greeks off, as everybody discovered when they won the tournament back in 2004 having been 150/1 at the start of the campaign, and if they can overcome Poland in the opening match of Euro 2012, they will have a terrific platform to build on in their bid to make the Knockout stages.

Poland
To win Euro 2012: 67.00 (BetVictor)
To win Group A: 4.50 (BetVictor)
Current FIFA Rank: 75
Best performance: Group Stage (2008)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: Co-Hosts

Coach: Franciszek Smuda
63 year old coach Smuda has a wealth of experience in his native Poland, having lifted the Polish Cup in 2009 with Lech Poznań, as well as winning three Polish league titles in his career and taking several top Polish sides in to Europe. Repeatedly linked with the National job for the best part of a decade, he eventually took up the role in October 2009, guiding his team to recent wins over Argentina and Norway, as well as creditable draws with Germany and Portugal.

Key Player: Jakub Błaszczykowski
Błaszczykowski is not only Poland’s captain, but with 49 caps under his belt, he is one of the most experienced players in the Polish side. The midfielder has notched eight goals for his country, including efforts in recent friendly matches against South Korea, Germany and Georgia, and recently won the Bundesliga title with his current club Borussia Dortmund, where he has amassed over 130 league appearances.

One thing going for Poland at Euro 2012 is home advantage, as they are co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine. 2008 was the first time that a host nation was not present in the Semi-Final, suggesting that home advantage is a serious factor at the European Championships, something that the Poles will be hoping to cash in on. A lack of recent competitive football having automatically qualified for Euro 2012 is a danger, but Poland have played some good sides in the last twelve months – including Argentina and Germany – and only France (1-0) and Italy (2-0) have managed to beat them.

Russia
To win Euro 2012: 23.00 (SportingBetBetVictor)
To win Group A: 2.50 (SportingBetCoral)
Current FIFA Rank: 12
Best performance: Third (2008); Winners as Soviet Union (1960)
Euro 2012 Qualifying: 1st, Group B

Coach: Dick Advocaat
Dick Advocaat needs no introduction, having famously had success at the likes of Rangers in Scotland (winning the treble in 1998/99), Zenit in Russia (winning the 2007/08 UEFA Cup amongst other honours) and PSV in his native Holland. He also led South Korea during a World Cup campaign and has had two spells as the Dutch national coach. His experience will prove vital to the Russians during Euro 2012.

Key Player: Roman Pavlyuchenko
The most prolific of Russia’s strikeforce with an impressive 20 goals in 45 international appearances, a return to form for Pavlyuchenko would be crucial to Russia’s chances of success at Euro 2012. Recently completing a transfer from Tottenham to Lokomotiv Moscow, Pavlyuchenko looks to have got his career back on track just in time for Euro 2012.

Russia are clear favourites to win Group A and to make the Knockout stages of Euro 2012, and anything less than that would be seen as a complete disaster. Russia opened their Euro 2012 Qualification campaign with a 2-0 win in Andorra, but slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against lowly Slovakia. They bounced back well to win the group and are a well organised and disciplined side, particularly on the road where they conceded just two goals in qualifying – both in a 3-2 win over Ireland. Expect Advocaat’s men to be ready for the challenge of Euro 2012.

Verdict
Far from the strongest of Euro 2012 Groups, but it is still a tricky puzzle to solve. Russia should win the group, in which case the 2.50 currently on offer at SportingBet and Coral would retrospectively look enormous, but it’s really tough to completely rule out any of the other three. Greece could be overpriced at 2.50 to qualify from Group A (BoyleSports and Paddy Power).