Greece needs a miracle like 2004

Match Facts

Group A: Greece vs Russia

Friday, 16 June 2012

2045 (local time); 1445(EST); 0015(IST)

National Stadium, Warsaw

The Greeks have been riled, ridiculed and belittled even when they won the Euro. In 2012 edition, they have been a group who had a surprisingly smooth progress to the tournament proper but in both their matches, very weak starts have spoiled any chance of a positive result. They conceded in the 17th minute in the first match and then had a man down by the middle of the first half. In the second match, they were down by two goals within the opening ten minutes. Both times they fought back, showing indomitable spirit and should have won the first match, but for a botched penalty against a substitute goalkeeper. Today they face their greatest challenge – to start on a positive note. That would mean keeping the marauding Russians at bay. The left side has been the most vulnerable and Poland could have scored multiple goals in the opening half hour (as the Czechs did) from that side. The manager would do to plug that gap, if he is to keep Arshavin and company at bay. The return of ex-Milanista Sokratis Papasthopoulos in the defence, after his harsh red card in the opening match would probably be much welcomed. In the attack, Dimitrios Salpigidis has been the miracle man. But most of what comes to Georgios Samaras, has seemed futile. That is another position that the manager can change in the final XI.

Breakout tournament for Alan Dzagoev

The task of the Greeks is maginified because the Russians are themselves not assured of a berth in the next round. The Russians have played attractive football and Alan Dzagoev is probably having a breakout tournament, placing himself prominently in the transfer window. Andrei Arshavin, back in Russia after a troubled year in Arsenal, has again looked like the menace of 2008 Euros – a display that had sparked his transfer to Arsenal. There is some problem in the attack though and that is with Aleksandr Kerzhakov. A vital man for Dick Advocaat from his Zenit days, Kerzhakov has a tournament leading 10 shots off target. Russia only needs a draw to advance but a win will assure them of the top position and will probably allow them to avoid Germany in the quarter-finals (if one may hazard a prediction about Group B).

Form Guide

The Russians have created the second highest number of chances (shots taken) and has looked quite an efficient team in both their matches. Losing to the Greeks and crashing out of the Euros will be a disaster as big as their loss to Slovenia on away-goals rule in the play-off for 2010 world cup.

The Greeks have only ever qualified for the knock-out rounds of one major tournament and they won that one. Their spirit has been commendable in this tournament but if they can bank on spirit alone to qualify for their second ever qualifying round is the question.

Teams & Formations

Greece (4-3-3): Michalis Sifakis; Vasilios Torosidis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, José Holebas; Ioannis Maniatis, Konstantinos Katsouranis, Georgios Karagounis; Dimitrios Salpigidis, Theofanis Gekas, Georgios Samaras

Manager: Fernando Santos

One would expect Russia to start strong and exploit the weak left side of the Greeks and then sit back and hit on the counter. They have the firepower to overwhelm the Greeks but before the business end of the tournament starts, the manager would want to get all his misifiring squad into shape.

 Russia(4-2-3-1): Viatcheslav Malafeev;Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov; Konstantin Zyrianov, Alan Dzagoev, Alexandr Kerzhakov; Andrey Arshavin

Manager: Dick Advocaat

Referee: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)


“If we get into the match early, or better yet, straight from the referee’s whistle – if we go into it focused and don’t make those mistakes – then I think our team has a chance of achieving what we want.”

Fernando Santos wants his Greece team to start strong.

“He can score out of nothing, even though he may not play that well.”

Dick Advocaat defends his misfiring striker Aleksandr Kerzakhov

A Sneak Peek: Stars of UEFA Euro 2012 Group A

We continue our build-up to the Euro 2012 with the rising stars of Group A. Kinshuk Biswas profiles them

Goalden Times has started the countdown to Euro 2012 with the previews of groups A and B. In this feature, we bring you some of the players who have the potential to become stars in Poland and Ukraine. We begin with Group A:


Name: Alan Dzagoev

Age: 21 (17.06.1990)

Club: CSKA Moscow 2008-Present

Position: Attacking Midfielder / Right Winger

National Caps (goals): 17 (4)

Current Market Value: € 17,000,000-20,000,000

Alan Dzagoev is originally from North Ossetia. Ossetians are a fierce ethnic group proud of their culture. He was interested in football because of another Ossetian footballer, Valery Gazzaev who later became his coach at CSKA Moscow. Dazgoev has been one of the stars of the current CSKA team that qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League this season.. Dzagoev plays as an attacking midfielder behind the forwards at his club but is also comfortable playing from the wing… He scored his first goal for his country in the crucial 3-2 win against Republic of Ireland at Dublin. Speedy and with lots of guile, Dzagoev is more like a two-feeted Mesut Ozil and can be compared to a young Andres Iniesta. Being a 21-year-old, he still has some years ahead of him. Already in the sights of Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League, Euro 2012 could be his stage to greatness.

Czech Republic

Name: Petr Jiráček

Age: 25 (02.03.1986)

Club: VfL Wolfsburg 2012–Present

Position: Midfield / Defensive Midfield

National Caps (goals): 5 (1)

Current Market Value: € 4,000,000-4,500,000

Petr Jiráček has just signed a four-year contract with Wolfsburg. His transfer was after his performances for his former club Viktoria Plzeň with 12 goals and eight assists in all competition. A midfielder with a great work rate and engine, he scored for his national team in the away leg of their Euro 2012 play-off against Montenegro. Jiráček is a natural left footer who can play a decent right footed shot as well. He is not a very flashy player but a hard worker who will run himself to the ground. The Czech Republic team looked very ordinary in the early part of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.but the inclusion of Jiracek changed all that.. His presence has released the pressure on the national captain Tomas Rosicky. He will be instrumental to the chances of the Czech team. He would do well to take inspiration from the way his last club stopped the might of AC Milan in the Champions League coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2.


Name: Sotiris Ninis

Age: 21 (03.04.1990)

Club: Panathinaikos 2006–Present

Position: Attacking Midfield / Midfield

National Caps (goals): 18 (2)

Current Market Value: € 8,000,000-9,500,000

Known as the ‘Greek Messi’, Sotiris Ninis is one of the best new prospects of Greek football. Born in Albania of Greek parents he declined an offer to play for the Albania under-17 youth teams to play for Greece. He has dazzling skills with great pace, which make him a frightening prospect for opposition defenders. Starting at a young age has meant, Ninis has a host of playing records – youngest Greek to play in European club competition (at 16), youngest Greek to score (on his debut)and the youngest captain at a Greek top division club (at 18). He plays as an attacking mid-fielder behind the strikers but has also played as a striker and on the right wing. He was selected by Otto Reahhagel in 2008 for the national team but was not chosen for Euro 2008 as the manager felt he was too young (shades of 1978: Diego Maradona and Cesar Menotti). He played a substitute in the 2010 World Cup. He scored against Israel in the 2012 Euro qualifying tournament the goal, which assured Greece a place in the finals. The problem is that he has just recovered from a cruciate ligament rupture, which had kept him out of the game for four months. It is to be seen how match-fit he will be; he is competing against another young player, Giannis Fetfatzidis for a place on the team. However, he should be well rested and can make an impact on the tournament. AC Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal who were all interested in him before his injury may come knocking again if he has a good tournament.


Name: Robert Lewandowski

Age: 21 (21.08.1988)

Club: Borussia Dortmund 2010–Present

Position: Striker / Centre Forward

National Caps (goals): 40 (13)

Current Market Value: € 12,000,000-14,500,000

Robert Lewandowski is a well known face in the Bundesliga. He was one of the pillars behind the success of Borussia Dortmund last season. This season he has scored 19 goals with nine assists in 31 matches in all competition He has a great first touch and always seems assured in his play. Like MiroslavKlose, Lewandowski is a strong aerial threat while also being a strong right footed player. He is the first choice striker in the national team and will expect to shine in front of his home supporters. Chelsea has already shown a keen interest in him and a good showing in the tournament may pave his way to Stamford Bridge. With misfiring Fernando Torres and an ageing Didier Drogba, he may just be the salvation Andre Villas Boas is looking for.