Battle for the East European Glory
Group A: Russia vs. Czech Republic
Friday, 08 June 2012
2045 (local time); 1445(EST); 0015(IST)
Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Poland
On the Focus
Russia begins their Euro 2012 campaign in red hot form after having crashed the Azzuris 3-0 in their final friendly game. They have a settled squad and many of their star players have come up with some classy performances for their country in the past. Russia will also benefit from the fact that almost half of their first XI will most likely be from Zenit St. Petersburg. Russia is quite fortunate to feature in the easiest group in the tournament, that too as the favourites. They would like to start the campaign on a winning note.
Standing in front of Russia are the gritty Czechs. These two teams have had great history in football – as USSR and Czechoslovakia respectively – but their recent past is not so glorious one. Czech Republic dominated the youth stage in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s but none of them are around now. They have a relatively unknown team which features a bunch of young lads from Viktoria Plzen. This unknown factor could well work in their advantage Czechs are facing the strongest team in the group up front and hence a draw will suit them quite well.
The two teams have met only once in the group stages of Euro 96 in England where the spectators were thrilled to witness an entertaining 3-3 draw. With relatively better defensive organizations on display, that score line will be pretty hard to match.
Russia did exceedingly well last time round in Euro 2008 to reach the Semis for the first time since the former USSR era. They have been impressive in their qualifying too where they lost only once in 20 matches and conceded only four goals during the campaign. The Russians have done well in the friendly matches and they would like to keep up their good showing in the main tournament also.
Russia Form Guide: WDDWD
Czech Republic had a very good team (former Czechoslovakia) in the late ‘70s but that too was not enough to win the trophy. This time they had to wait till play-off matches to get through and naturally expectations are not that high. Their friendly results have also been dismal where they have failed to impress their supporters.
Czech Republic Form Guide: LWDWW
Teams & Formations
Dick Advocat would hope for the same this time from the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko who did not have a great season at club level. To support them Russia has a very strong unit comprising of shot stopper Igor Akinfeyev and midfielder Roman Shirokov – both one of the bests in Europe at this moment.
Russia (4-3-3): Igor Akinfeev; Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksei Berezutskiy, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Anyukov; Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Roman Shirokov; Andrei Arshavin, Aleksandr Kerzahkov, Alan Dzagoev.
Manager: Dick Advocaat
Czech Republic will rely heavily on Petr Cech, fresh from his Champions Cup final heroics. Tomas Rosicky’s timely return from calf strain would be major boost for the team which lacks in quality big time.
Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; David Limbersky, Michel Kadlec, Tomas Sivok, Theodor Gebre Selassie; Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plasil; Jan Rezek, Tomas Rosicky, Vaclav Pilar; Milan Baros.
Manager: Michal Bilek
Match Referee: Howard Webb (Englad)
Assistant Referee: Michael Mullarkey (Englad) and Peter Kirkup (Englad)
“We have a good team, we have the quality, and it is very important that the players start believing in that.” Russia Manager Dick Advocaat
“Maybe we have our toughest opponent in the first match, the favourite in our group, Russia, who won their last friendly against Italy 3-0. That creates huge respect, but I believe in my team, and believe we will succeed in this match.” Czech Republic Manager Michal Bilek
The Russians look too strong for the Czechs and a comfortable 2-0 win seems likely.