What: Euro 2012 Group A
Who: Russia vs Czech Republic
When: Friday 8th June, 2012, at 19.45 UK Time
Where: Municipal Stadium, Wroclaw, Poland
Advocaat Seeking to Take Advantage of Favourable Draw
Dick Advocaat, the coach who took Zenit St. Petersburg to UEFA Cup glory in 2008, is the man shouldering the huge expectancy at Euro 2012 as Russia find themselves in arguably the tournament’s easiest group. Anything short of qualification from Group A would be viewed as a disaster for a footballing nation looking towards hosting their own major finals in the 2018 World Cup. Aside from the Czech Republic, Russia will also face co-hosts Poland and 2004 winners Greece.
A 3-0 victory for Russia over Italy in a recent friendly made their European rivals stand up and take notice, but Advocaat was keen to play down his team’s chances of glory, insisting that his side are still some way short of being considered favourites for Euro 2012.
“Let’s be realistic. I watched the Italy game again and realised we still have things to work on”, said the Dutchman “The favourites for the tournament are Spain, Germany and Holland. I’d say that Russia are probably outsiders”
Bilek’s New Generation Look to Make Mark
Like Russia, the Czech Republic will be hopeful of negotiating their passage through Group A. They begin their campaign with, what looks on paper, their most difficult match of the group stage against Advocaat’s men.
Despite a shock defeat at home to Hungary in their final warm-up fixture, a result which brought to an end a six-match unbeaten run, Czech coach Michal Bilek is positive about his team’s chances.
“I believe the team is well-prepared and the current relaxed state of the squad will be important. I believe in my team, and believe we will succeed in this match”, said the coach, sounding positive
The Czechs preparations have been hampered by injury concerns to key players. First choice striker and Euro 2004 Golden Boot winner Milan Baros is an injury doubt after he pulled a thigh muscle and was forced to sit out training. Tomas Rosicky has also been struggling with a calf injury, but the man who makes the team tick should make the opener against Russia.
Russia 1-1 Uruguay (25/05; Friendly)
Lithuania 0-0 Russia (29/05; Friendly)
Italy 0-3 Russia (01/06; Friendly)
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic (29/02; Friendly)
Czech Republic 2-1 Israel (26/05; Friendly)
Czech Republic 1-2 Hungary (01/06; Friendly)
Players to watch
Russia – Aleksandr Kerzhakov: The former Sevilla striker looks set to lead the line ahead of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak. Now plying his trade back in his homeland at Zenit St.Petersburg, the frontman scored in the 3-0 victory over Italy and looks sharp. He will though be relying on Andrei Arshavin and Roman Shirokov to provide the creativity from deep.
Czech Republic – Tomas Rosicky: Now the Czechs’ creator in chief. The playmaker has remodelled himself at Arsenal, operating in a deeper role in the Gunners’ midfield, but for his country Rosicky operates behind the front man, akin to the role he fulfilled earlier in his career. In a team which struggles to score goals there will be pressure on the national team captain to create as well as be a goal threat.
As is the modern way, both nations look set to start with one up front leaving the midfield to be keenly fought. Coupled with the fact that opening matches tend to be cagey affairs, as both teams seek to avoid defeat, expect this encounter to be a tight match with Russia calling upon their superior experience to nick it 1-0.
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