Today at Euro 2012: Czech Republic v Poland and Greece v Russia
Saturday 16 June 2012
Czech Republic v Poland
It's better for a tournament if the host country manages to extend its stay beyond the group stage. And so, it is do-or-die time for Poland in Wroclaw this evening as they need to beat the Czech Republic to advance into the quarter-finals on home territory.
Following two draws in their opening fixtures, they must provide more of a threat going forward. Captain Jakub Blaszczykowski, who scored a fine goal in the last outing against Russia on Tuesday, said: "It's going to be a mini-final. It'll be the biggest match in the recent past for all of us."
The main selection dilemma for coach Franciszek Smuda is whether to reinstate Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny following suspension, but Przemyslaw Tyton looks like he will remain between the sticks after his fine displays in the opening two matches. Meanwhile, they hope injury doubts Damien Perquis, Dariusz Dudka and Eugen Polanski will be available.
For the Czech's, Tomas Rosicky should be fit enough for at least the bench after an Achilles injury forced him off against Greece, while goalkeeper Petr Cech remains cool after a shaky start, saying the team are feeling at home in Poland. "People look at the mistakes and judge you on that but I've played well, generally," he said. A draw will be enough for Michal Bilek's side, finalists in 1996 and semi-finalists of 2004 to progress.
Kick-off 7.45pm, Wroclaw (BBC1) Ref C Thomson (Scot) Odds: Czech Rep 12-5 Draw 5-2 Poland 5-4
Player to watch: Jakub Blaszczykowski
No goal this tournament has produced the same roar as Jakub Blaszczykowski's against Russia. The Poland captain (left), with his team 1-0 down, took a perfect touch with his right foot to control the ball before driving it into the far top corner with his left.
It was goal of the championship so far. Blaszczykowski's sharp, probing wing-play has been one of the highlights for Poland. He is more than quick enough, and has the burst to take him past full-backs. His delivery is precise, and he is especially good at finding the forehead of Robert Lewandowski.
It should be no surprise. Blaszczykowski, Lewandowski and right-back Lukasz Piszczek all play together for Borussia Dortmund, where they have won consecutive Bundesliga titles. It is a three-man supply line which could send the co-hosts through to the next stage.
Greece v Russia
Russia's opening performances against the Czech Republic and Poland suggest that they are capable of defeating anyone this summer. With Greece needing a win to stay in the competition, and Russia only a point, it is little wonder Dick Advocaat's team are favourites to reach the quarter-finals.
History is not on the side of the Greeks, who have lost to the Russians in each of the last two group stages of the competition in 2004 and 2008.
Greece's problem so far has been their distinct lack of sharpness in the early stages of matches. Against Poland on the opening day they were fortunate to only lose one goal in the first 20 minutes, and on Tuesday they were trailing by two goals to the Czech Republic with only six minutes on the clock. Olympiakos winger Jose Holebas knows all too well that this cannot happen again against the Russians. "We completely slept through the first 30 minutes, during the first half. Simple as that," said Holebas, following the defeat on Tuesday. "We need to get the three points [against Russia], there's no other way."
With the very plausible outcome that the runner-up in Group A will face Germany, who won their first two games, in the quarter finals, it is unlikely Russia will settle for just the point that guarantees progression. They are expected to name the same team that drew with Poland, including Konstantin Zyryanov who scored the only goal of the game in Salzburg when Russia knocked Greece out of Euro 2008. For Greece, Michalis Sifakis looks set to replace Kostas Chalkias in goal and Theofanis Gekas – who scored on Tuesday – will start up front instead of Georgios Fotakis.
Kick-off 7.45pm, Warsaw (BBC3) Ref J Eriksson (Swe) Odds: Greece 4-1 Draw 11-4 Russia 8-11
Denmark v Germany
Germany have won both games so far and only need a draw against Denmark in Lviv to win Group B and ensure what should be a relatively winnable quarter-final. Jrôme Boateng is suspended after two yellow cards so Lars Bender should come in at right-back. Denmark can top the group with an unlikely win, but will have to do so without the injured Dennis Rommedahl, with midfielder Niki Zimling also a doubt.
Kick-off Tom'rw, 7.45pm, Lviv (ITV4) Ref C V Carballo (Sp) Odds: Denmark 9-2 Draw 12-5 Germany 8-11
Netherlands v Portugal
The Netherlands must be wondering how it came to this. With so much talent in their squad, they were earmarked as potential winners. Now, to progress, they must defeat Portugal by more than two goals and hope that Germany beat Denmark. Bert van Marwijk needs goals. With only one so far, he may use Luuk de Jong or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who scored 74 goals between them last season.
Kick-off Tom'rw, 7.45pm, Kharkiv (ITV1) Ref N Rizzoli (It) Odds: Portugal 9-5 Draw 12-5 Neth 6-4
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