Euro 2012: Group A
Monday 04 June 2012
Poland Fifa ranking 65
The lowest-ranked team in the tournament, down at No 65, but as a host nation they will be competitive at the least. Although Poland is a strong football nation, with third-placed finishes in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups, this is only their second Euro Championship. Their most recent qualification process, for the 2010 World Cup, was dismal, as they finished second-bottom of a group behind Northern Ireland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Despite all this, Franciszek Smuda, a successful coach in the Polish league, has some good players to call upon, not least three from Borussia Dortmund's double-winning side. Robert Lewandowski has been an astonishing success since joining from Lech Poznan two years ago. He scored 30 goals in all competitions this season, combining ruthlessness with impressive intelligence and movement. He arrives with club-mates Lukasz Piszczek, an industrious right-back and Jakub Blaszczykowski, a marauding winger and national captain.
Behind all of these, of course, is Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal's impressive young goalkeeper, who has shown himself strong enough to fill the absence of organisation in front of him at club level. It is not very much, but playing against modest opposition, at the National Stadium in Warsaw, it might well be enough.
Manager: Fraciszek Smuda An expert in the Polish game, having won the title with Widzew Lodz and Wislaw Krakow in a long career before he took this job in 2009.
Tournament odds 40-1.
1. Wojciech Szczesny Goalkeeper (Arsenal)
2. Sebastian Boenisch Defender (Werder Bremen)
3. Grzegorz Wojtkowiak Defender (Lech Poznan)
4. Marcin Kaminski Defender (Lech Poznan)
5. Dariusz Dudka Midfielder (Auxerre)
6. Adam Matuszczyk Midfielder (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
7. Eugen Polanski Midfielder (Mainz)
8. Maciej Rybus Midfielder (Terek Grozny)
9. Robert Lewandowski Striker (Borussia Dortmund)
10. Ludovic Obraniak Midfielder (Bordeaux)
11. Rafal Murawski Midfielder (Lech Poznan)
12. Grzegorz Sandomierski Goalkeeper (J Bialystok)
13. Marcin Wasilewski Defender (Anderlecht)
14. Jakub Wawrzyniak Defender (Legia Warsaw)
15. Damien Perquis Defender (Sochaux)
16. Jakub Blaszczykowski Midfielder (B Dortmund)
17. Artur Sobiech Striker (Hannover 96)
18. Adrian Mierzejewski Midfielder (Trabzonspor)
19. Rafal Wolski Midfielder (Legia Warsaw)
20. Lukasz Piszczek Defender (Borussia Dortmund)
21. Kamil Grosicki Midfielder (Sivasspor)
22. Przemyslaw Tyton Goalkeeper (PSV Eindhoven)
23. Pawel Brozek Striker (Celtic)
Qualified Twice. Best Group stage (2008).
Russia Fifa ranking 11
Russia were not the best team at Euro 2008, but they were the most exciting. Guus Hiddink's side played some thrilling attacking football, not least in their 3-1 defeat of the Netherlands in the quarter-final.
Dick Advocaat's Russians may not play quite as well as Hiddink's did, but they share the same foundation of very accomplished footballers. Andrei Arshavin, playing closer to his preferred No 10 role, still has the gifts to turn a game, with Roman Pavlyuchenko providing a more conventional threat. The full-backs are still there: Yuri Zhirkov on the left, and Aleksandr Anyukov, one of Europe's best on the opposite side.
Anyukov, like Arshavin and many of the other senior players, was part of Advocaat's great Zenit St Petersburg side, meaning that Russia can at times play with the co-ordination of a club team. Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov, also of Zenit, provide dynamism from midfield.
But most of these players are old, and not many are quick. In a rather static unit, much of the responsibility rests on the talented 21-year-old Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moscow to provide a different speed of attack.
Manager: Dick Advocaat The veteran coach has won the Dutch, Scottish and Russian titles, and now manages many of his fine Zenit St Petersburg players for Russia too.
Tournament odds 20-1.
1. Igor Akinfeev Goalkeeper (CSKA Moscow)
2. Aleksandr Anyukov Defender (Zenit St P'burg)
3. Roman Sharonov Defender (Rubin Kazan)
4. Sergei Ignashevich Defender (CSKA Moscow)
5. Yuri Zhirkov Defender (Anzhi Makhachkala)
6. Roman Shirokov Midfielder (Zenit St P'burg)
7. Igor Denisov Midfielder (Zenit St P'burg)
8. Konstantin Zyryanov Midfielder (Zenit St P'burg)
9. Marat Izmailov Midfielder (Sporting Lisbon)
10. Andrei Arshavin Midfielder (Arsenal)
11. Aleksandr Kerzhakov Striker (Zenit St P'burg)
12. Aleksei Berezutski Defender (CSKA Moscow)
13. Anton Shunin Goalkeeper (Dynamo Moscow)
14. Roman Pavlyuchenko Striker (Lokomotiv Moscow)
15. Dmitri Kombarov Midfielder (Spartak Moscow)
16. Vyacheslav Malafeev Goalkeeper (Zenit St P'burg)
17. Alan Dzagoev Midfielder (CSKA Moscow)
18. Aleksandr Kokorin Striker (Dynamo Moscow)
19. Vladimir Granat Defender (Dynamo Moscow)
20. Pavel Pogrebnyak Striker (Fulham)
21. Kirill Nababkin Defender (CSKA Moscow)
22. Denis Glushakov Midfielder (Lokomotiv Moscow)
23. Igor Semshov Midfielder (Dynamo Moscow)
Qualified 10 times [including Soviet Union and CIS] Best Winners (1960)
Greece Fifa ranking 14
Responsible for one of the greatest achievements in modern football, Greece won Euro 2004 with some dogged, disciplined football. It is no slight to say that it has been all downhill from there – in which other direction could they possibly have gone?
Greece did make it to the group stage of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, but since then they have been managed by the Portuguese Fernando Santos. He has continued the defensive organisation of Otto Rehhagel's historic side. Greece conceded just five goals in their 10 qualifying matches, proving difficult to break down as they went unbeaten, topping a group that included Croatia.
Most of the team remains very functional. Centre-forward Theofanis Gekas is a feeder on scraps, now in Turkey after spells in Germany and at Portsmouth. Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis still anchor the midfield, while Georgios Samaras, one of the most unpredictable players in European football, should cut in from the left wing.
There are talented youngsters, centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos and wingers Sotiris Ninis and Ioannis Fetfatzidis. Greece may need their inspiration if they are to repeat the glories of 2004.
Manager: Fernando Santos Success at Porto led to spells with some of Greece's biggest clubs, before he was asked to follow the achievements of Otto Rehhagel.
Tournament odds 80-1.
1. Kostas Chalkias Goalkeeper (PAOK)
2. Ioannis Maniatis Defender (Olympiakos)
3. Giorgos Tzavelas Defender (Monaco)
4. Stelios Malezas Defender (PAOK)
5. Kyriakos Papadopoulos Defender (Schalke)
6. Grigoris Makos Midfielder (AEK Athens)
7. Giorgos Samaras Striker (Celtic)
8. Avraam Papadopoulos Defender (Olympiakos)
9. Nikos Lyberopoulos Striker (AEK Athens)
10. Giorgos Karagounis Midfielder (Panathinaikos)
11. Kostas Mitroglou Striker (Atromitos)
12. Alexandros Tzorvas Goalkeeper (Palermo)
13. Michalis Sifakis Goalkeeper (Aris Thessaloniki)
14. Dimitris Salpigidis Striker (PAOK)
15. Vasilis Torosidis Defender (Olympiakos)
16. Giorgos Fotakis Midfielder (PAOK)
17. Theofanis Gekas Striker (Samsunspor)
18. Sotiris Ninis Midfielder (Panathinaikos)
19. Sokratis Papastathopoulos Defender (W Bremen)
20. Jose Holebas Defender (Olympiakos)
21. Kostas Katsouranis Midfielder (Panathinaikos)
22. Kostas Fortounis Midfielder (Kaiserslautern)
23. Giannis Fetfatzidis Midfielder (Olympiakos)
Qualified Four times. Best Winners (2004).
Czech Republic Fifa ranking 26
Along with Greece and, in a sense, Russia, the Czechs are European Championship winners who must fancy themselves to find a way out of a conquerable group. This team does not have the class of the 1996 runners-up, with Pavel Nedved, Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer, but coach Michal Bilek, assisted by Smicer, still has the core of the 2004 semi-finalists to call upon.
Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil and Tomas Hubschman, all in their early 20s for that tournament in Portugal, are now senior players with years of useful experience. Cech, of course, is now a European champion with Chelsea, and has just enjoyed arguably his best six months since the serious head injury nearly six years ago.
After Cech's error cost them their place in the 2008 knock-out stage, in that dramatic 3-2 defeat to Turkey in Geneva, he will obviously be keen to atone this time around. Bilek and Smicer will certainly hope to avoid a repeat trauma. They have built a solid base for their side, who scored 12 and conceded eight in their eight group games, before professionally dispatching Montenegro 3-0 in a two-legged play-off.
Manager: Michal Bilek The former Czech international coached the Under-19s and won the league with Sparta Prague before taking the national side, with Smicer, in 2009.
Tournament odds 66-1.
1. Petr Cech Goalkeeper (Chelsea)
2. Theodor Gebre Selassie Defender (Slovan Liberec)
3. Michal Kadlec Defender (Bayer Leverkusen)
4. Marek Suchy Defender (Spartak Moscow)
5. Roman Hubnik Defender (Hertha BSC)
6. Tomas Sivok Defender (Besiktas)
7. Tomas Necid Striker (CSKA Moscow)
8. David Limbersky Defender (Viktoria Plzen)
9. Jan Rezek Midfielder (Anorthosis Famagusta)
10. Tomas Rosicky Midfielder (Arsenal)
11. Milan Petrzela Midfielder (Viktoria Plzen)
12. Frantisek Rajtoral Defender (Viktoria Plzen)
13. Jaroslav Plasil Midfielder (Bordeaux)
14. Vaclav Pilar Midfielder (Viktoria Plzen)
15. Milan Baros Striker (Galatasaray)
16. Jan Lustuvka Goalkeeper (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)
17. Tomas Hubschman Midfielder (Shakhtar Donetsk)
18. Daniel Kolar Midfielder (Viktoria Plzen)
19. Petr Jiracek Midfielder (Wolfsburg)
20. Tomas Pekhart Striker (Nurnberg)
21. David Lafata Striker (FK Jablonec)
22. Vladimir Darida Midfielder (Viktoria Plzen)
23. Jaroslav Drobny Goalkeeper (Hamburg)
Qualified Five times.
Best Finalists (1996).
Newcastle manager taunted again as his side loses to Stoke
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