Euro 2012 Group A Betting Preview
If there is such a thing as the opposite of a ‘group of death’, Group A is it. Each of the four nations will have high hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Russia are arguably the strongest side in the group, but you can’t ignore Poland’s home advantage or Greece’s European Championships pedigree.
It’s been 52 years since Russia won the European Championships but Dick Advocaat’s side have an outside chance this summer. Conceding just four goals in qualifying, the Russians will expect to qualify from this group – indeed, they are just 2/5 to reach the knockout stages.
Of course Russia were the surprise package in 2008, reaching the semi-final before being knocked out by the eventual winners, Spain.
Advocaat favours a ‘Christmas Tree’ formation which sees Andrei Arshavin and the talented Alan Dzagoev behind a single striker, likely to be Alexander Kerzhakov.
The defensive trio of Alexsandr Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich and Aleksei Berezutskiy have 180 caps between them while the 21 year old Dzagoev is the current Best Young Player in the Russian Premier League.
Despite a lack of household names, Poland are one of my ‘teams to watch’ for Euro 2012 and are good value at 10/11 to qualify from Group A. Home advantage cannot be underestimated at a major championships and I expect the hosts to qualify from the weakest of the four groups.
Franciszek Smuda’s side have held Mexico, South Korea, Portugal and Germany to draws in recent months and with a passionate home support can get the better of their Group A rivals.
Captain Jakub Błaszczykowski, right back Lukas Pizsczek and striker Robert Lewandowski all play for German champions Borussia Dortmund who have enjoyed a superb season. Lewandowski was named Germany’s Player of the Year and bagged a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the German Cup final.
The Czech Republic scraped into the finals after a play-off win over Montenegro and Michal Bílek’s side are not the dangerous team of old. The full backs provide much of the width for this Czech team, with Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky playing just behind a lone striker. Goals could be a problem for the Czechs with Milan Baros still their first choice attacker and considering that their top scorer in qualifying was left back Michal Kadlec.
The Czechs are evens to qualify from Group A and their final group match against Poland on 16 June could be crucial.
Captain and deep lying midfielder Jaroslav Plasil provides the creativity while the experience comes from Premier League pair of Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky.
Surely Greece couldn’t do it again…could they?
Well, the Greeks didn’t lose a match in Euro 2012 qualifying and this squad certainly boasts more technical ability than the 2004 team that won the tournament.
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has promoted some youngsters into the team but goals remain in short supply. Giorgios Samaras and Dimitris Salpingidis have just 7 international goals each in over 50 appearances.
Young midfielder Sotiris Ninis has signed a deal to play with Parma next season, while 20 year old centre back Kyriakos Papadopoulos plays for Schalke.
Russia will be pleased with their draw and a quarter final tie against either Holland or Germany looks likely.
I expect Poland to make the most of their home support and to join Russia in the knockout stages, although Greece could well cause an upset along the way.