UEFA Euro 2012 Soccer Championship
Friday, June 8 – Sunday, July 1, 2012
Poland and Ukraine Tournament Hosts
American TV Coverage: ESPN, ESPN2, ABC
Defending Champion: Spain
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
The European Soccer Championship is arguably the second biggest FIFA sponsored tournament in the world behind the World Cup itself. The top 16 teams in Europe are divided into four groups of 4 teams each. They play a round robin with all four teams in their group, and the top two in each group qualify for the quarterfinals. From that point on, the tournament is single elimination until the winner is crowned July 1st. Poland and Ukraine are this year’s hosts. Spain is not only the defending Euro champion butt eh defending World Cup champion as well.
Let’s take a look at the eight teams in Group A, with their odds to win to tournament, the group, and to advance to the knockout stage courtesy of bookmaker. In other articles we will look at groups, B, C and D.
Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, and Czech Republic
Group A is easily the weakest of the four groups but any of the four teams can advance, so it should be wide open. Play in Group A opens up on Friday with Poland vs Greece and Russia vs Czech Republic.
Poland (40/1 tournament, +225 group, -225 knockout)
The host Poles are #65 in the current FIFA World rankings. Polish manager Franciszek Smuda has managed to keep his job despite some awful performances in early 2011. Poland hasn’t lost in four matches, including a tough, hard fought 0-0 draw against a talented Portugal squad.
Poland will go as far as talented striker Robert Lewandowski will take them. He scored 22 goals for German Bundesliga champs Borussia Dortmund, most off assists from Jakub Blaszczykowski. Think Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the Los Angeles Clippers. Blaszczykowski will look to set up Lawandowski to keep the offense moving. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is one of the best in the world.
On paper, Poland isn’t as talented as the other three teams in the group. However, they should be able to ride the emotion of the home crowds to a berth in the knockout round. Most likely they would play the Netherlands, Germany or Portugal in the quarterfinals, so I don’t see them making it past the next round.
Russia (25/1 T, +160 G, -225 KO)
The Russians are #11 in the FIFA rankings. They are managed by Dick Advocaat. Russia made the semifinals at Euro 2008 and won their qualifying group for this year’s event. However, the aging Russians might struggle to score.
Igor Denisov, Roman Zhirokov, and Konstantin Zyryanov are very talented midfielders, but the best scoring option is Andrei Arshavin. Denisov is the only one under 30. Pavel Pogrebnyak is also a dangerous scorer. Keeper Igor Akinfeev returned in April after a ligament tear. He is an elite goalkeeper when healthy.
If the Russians can score, then they should win this group pretty easily. If they don’t then an early exit before the knockouts is very possible. Like Poland, they would face whomever survives the group of death, between Portugal, the Netherlands, and Germany. Russia will have a difficult time beating any of those teams.
Greece (100/1 T, 9/2 G, +150 KO)
The Greeks are #14 in the FIFA rankings. With the nation on the verge of economic calamity, a repeat of their unlikely win in Euro 2004 would be nice for the spirits of the Greek people. The Greeks are managed by Fernando Santos, and will rely on stingy defense as they always have. Greece won their qualifying group despite only scoring 14 total goals. They gave up only 5 goals though.
Georgios Samaras, Theofanis Gekas, and Dimitris Salpigidis will look to receive passes from the brilliant young set-up man Soltiris Ninis. Keeper Alexandros Tzorvas is a fantastic stopper and difficult to score against.
Greece could surprise some teams with their defense. Like Russia they will struggle to score. I don’t think anyone from this group can beat any of the teams from Group B in the quarterfinals.
Czech Republic (80/1 T, 7/2 G, +120 KO)
The Czechs are #26 in the FIFA rankings. The Czechs are coached by Michel Bilek. They finished second in their qualifying group behind Spain. The Czechs then beat Montenegro in a playoff to qualify for Euro 2012.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech just won the UEFA Champion’s League title with Chelsea. He is one of the best keepers in the world. The top scorers are Tomas Rosicky, Petr Jiracek, and Michal Kadlec. Rosicky used to be one of the top players in the world, but injuries and age have hampered him. He is still a dangerous scorer, and one of the top players for Arsenal.
Besides the hosts Poland and Ukraine, the Czechs are the lowest ranked of the 16 qualifiers for Euro 2012. However, I think they could be a nice dark horse to win the group or least make the knockout stage. Like Russia and Greece, they struggle to score. I expect a lot of 1-0 or even 0-0 scores in this group.
I like the Czechs to win the group and Poland to finish second in group A.