Welcome to the beginning of Four Five Two’s third-world class coverage of
Euro 2012. Beginning today we will be taking an in-depth look at the 16 teams who kick off play Friday afternoon. If we feel ambitious we may even have some other articles up. As always we will also provide predictions so you can make fun of us for being completely wrong. First up on the schedule is Brian with Group .
Group A, or as I will refer to it, the Communist Group. Yes I know Greece wasn’t communist, but ¾ wins the prize in this one. Co-hosts Poland, the Czech Republic, and everyone’s favorite bad guy Russia round out what can best be described as a lackluster group. Out of the four groups this is the only one that lacks anything that could resemble talent or good soccer. Before I just go out back and shoot myself, Let’s get this over with.
Nickname: The white and reds, The white eagles
One of the cohosts for the tournament, Poland certainly has the easier road to qualification. The team starts things off with a match against for champions Greece, followed by an invasion for Russia, before finishing things up against the Czech’s. The team has been on a bit of a hot streak and is undefeated in 2012, though there strongest opponent was Slovakia. Manager Franciszek Smuda has a fairly young side with him at this tournament, only 2 players are above 30 with a lot of the squad being closer to college age than anything.
The name most fans will recognize is star-studded goalkeeper Wojech Szczesny of Le Arsenal, but the name to look out for is forward Robert Lewandoski. Bob the Pole is only 23 but already has 14 goals in 42 matches and his performance will be key to the home team getting into the quarterfinals. Most of their players play abroad in Germany or France, so there is certainly talent to be found in the squad, and with this group you have to like their chances of advancing.
Nickname: The Commies
The big fish in Group A, the Commies as I have decided to nickname them will be the favorites to finish top of the group. An easy first match against the Czech Republic should allow the team a solid 3 points before having to face the co-hosts in a match that could end up going either way. The squad has a wealth of experience, with 10 players close to or exceeding 50 caps for country. They lose points in my book for only having one player with the name Vladimir, I like my stereotypes damn it. Despite this experience, Euro 2008 is the only tournament they have managed to qualify for the knockout stages. This doesn’t count the Soviet Union days however.
EPL fans will be familiar with a few names on the squad sheet. Forwards Andrei Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak ply their trade in London for Arsenal and Fulham, while Roman Pavlyuchenko was also part of the Russian invasion of London before returning home. Just because we want to add to the forward clusterfuck that Russia has, keep an eye out for Aleksandr Kerzhakov if he manages to play. The 29 year-old has the second most number of goals for country, and my guess is he will have to delive the goods when Andrei, Pavs, and Pavs screw things up.
Nicknames: National, Blue-White
As the only non-communist country in the group, the Greeks are automatically my team of choice to win the group, and as Americans it should be your choice too. The squad is best remembered for their shocking win in Euro 2004, and this is probably the last time this generation of players will have a shot at a trophy. Most of the players stay in Greece for their club careers, but a few have ventured out to exciting places like Scotland, Italy, and Germany.
Greece could be mistaken for Stoke if they had red and white kits, so don’t expect anything fancy from their matches. The offense is anemic so the team parks a really big bus and tries to steal a goal or two on the counter. If you can avoid watching their matches I’d highly recommend it.
Nicknames: Narod’ak (who the fuck knows what that means)
The Czech’s will best be remembered for the stomping they put on OOSSAA
during the god-damn Greek tragedy that was World Cup 2006. Since then most of their talent has retired from international duty, but they still have a few players who can deal some damage. The squad has had some good and bad results over the last year. They only lost to Spain 2-0, but lost to Normay 3-0, and last week were defeated by Hungary 2-1. The best way to describe them seems to be inconsistent, and it isn’t a shock that they rely on 3-4 different players to carry them in each match.
The big name in the side is goalkeeper Petr Cech. Cech, who ended the season with a fantastic run of form, is the single biggest influence on this squad. If he can have 1 or 2 clean sheets, this side should easily advance to the quarterfinals. Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal will also be asked to contribute in the midfield, and his relationship with forward Mlan Baros will be key, The two of them have combined for 61 goals at the international level, while no one else has more than 8.
Honestly this group is an absolute crapshoot. A defensive team the relies on the counter, 2 teams that may be best known for their inconsistency, and the host country that is certainly not one of the top teams in Europe. I’ll go with the upsets here and predict Poland to win the group with a surprise victory over Mother Russia.
Greece Stoke City will get the second spot after defeating Russia as well. The Commies and the Czechs will once again go home disappointed.