Euro 2012: Group A Preview

Euro 2012: Group A Preview

Euro 2012

Euro 2012: Group A Preview

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AndriyArshavin (Getty)

With the European Championships just a day away, it is time to start looking at the tournament's teams, players and match-ups. SBI will offer you a group-by-group overview to help you get ready for the tournament.

If you are a die-hard who has already digested multiple previews and have a wall poster with the tournament schedule already mounted in your home, then you're probably not going to find anything new here (other than a few opinions). But if you have been too busy with life and haven't had a chance to really take a look at the groups, the schedule and the rosters, then this is your place.

Let's start with Group A, where tournament co-hosts Poland are in what is widely considered to be the weakest group in the field. Russia enters as the favorites to top the group.

The race for second place in Group A is wide open, with Poland and aging side Czech Republic in the running for that precious place in the knockout rounds. Greece lacks the firepower to be considered a serious threat.

Here is a closer look at all four teams in Group A:

GROUP A

Schedule (Times Eastern)

Friday- Poland vs. Greece (ESPN, ESPN3.com), Noon

Friday- Russia vs. Czech Republic (ESPN, ESPN3.com), 2:45pm

Monday- Greece vs. Czech Republic (ESPN, ESPN3.com), Noon

Monday- Russia vs. Poland (ESPN, ESPN3.com), 2:45pm

Thursday- Czech Republic vs. Poland (ESPN2, ESPN3.com), 2:45pm

Thursday- Greece vs. Russia (ESPN, ESPN3.com), 2:45pm

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RUSSIA

EurosRussiaTeam (Getty)

PLAYERS TO WATCH– Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Alexander Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev

NAME TO LEARN– Roman Shirokov. The Zenit playmaker has been the star of Russia's pre-Euro friendlies and he provides a dynamic threat from midfield that will make it tough for opponents to key on Arshavin.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers- Igor Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow), Igor Malafeev (Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow).

Defenders- Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Roman Sharonov (Rubin Kazan), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow), Kirill Nababkin (CSKA Moscow).

Midfielders- Igor Denisov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (Zenit St Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Igor Semshov (Dynamo Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Marat Izmailov (Sporting), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow).

Forwards- Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Pavlyuchenko (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham).

OUTLOOK– For Russia, not reaching the knockout round out of this group would be a major surprise and a massive disappointment. Dick Advocaat's side should be able to run the table, but the ghosts of underachieving Russian sides of the past could prevent an easy waltz through the group stage.

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POLAND

EurosPolandTeam (AP)

PLAYERS TO WATCH- Robert Lewandowski, Wojciech SzczÄ™sny, Lukasz Piszczek, Ludovic Obraniak

NAME TO LEARN-Jakub Blaszczykowski. The pacy Dortmund winger has been key in the German club's back-to-back Bundesliga titles and should attract even more attention after the Euros.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Åukasz FabiaÅ„ski (Arsenal), Wojciech SzczÄ™sny (Arsenal), PrzemysÅ‚aw TytoÅ„ (PSV Eindhoven).

Defenders: Sebastian Boenisch (Werder Breman), Marcin Kaminski (Lech Poznan), Damien Perquis (Sochaux), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Legia Warsaw), Grzegorz Wojtkowiak (Lech Poznan).

Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre), Kamil Grosicki (Sivasspor), Adam Matuszczyk (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Adrian Mierzejewski (Trabzonspor), Rafal Murawski (Lech Poznan), Ludovic Obraniak (Bordeaux), Eugen Polanski (FSV Mainz), Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), Rafal Wolski (Legia Warsaw).

Forwards: Pawel Brozek (Celtic), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund), Artur Sobiech (Hannover 96).

OUTLOOK– Riding their Dortmund standouts Blaszczykowski and Lewandoski and some home-field advantage, the co-hosts are poised to make a run at the knockout stage.

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CZECH REPUBLIC

EurosCzechRepublicTeam (Reuters)

PLAYERS TO WATCH– Milan Baros, Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Cech

NAME TO LEARN– Tomas Necid. The 22-year-old CSKA Moscow forward has battled back from a major knee injury, but with a recent injury to Baros, he could wind up getting a major look and a chance to shine.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Chelsea), Jaroslav Drobny (Hamburg), Jan Lastuvka (FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk).

Defenders: Theodor Gebre Selassie (FC Slovan Liberec), Roman Hubnik (Hertha Berlin), Michal Kadlec (Bayer Leverkusen), David Limbersky (FC Viktoria Plzen), Tomas Sivok (Besiktas), Marek Suchy (Spartak Moskow).

Midfielders: Vladimir Darida (FC Viktoria Plzen), Tomas Hubschman (Shakhtar Donetsk), Petr Jiracek (VfL Wolfsburg), Daniel Kolar (FC Viktoria Plzen), Milan Petrzela (FC Viktoria Plzen), Vaclav Pilar (VfL Wolfsburg), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), Frantisek Rajtoral (FC Viktoria Plzen), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal).

Forwards: Milan Baros (Galatasaray), David Lafata (FK Jablonec), Tomas Necid (CSKA Moskow), Tomas Pekhart (FC Nurnberg), Jan Rezek (Anorthosis Famagusta).

OUTLOOK– The Czechs wait on the status of Baros, who picked up a thigh injury last week. Should he be ruled out for an extended time, that would weaken their chances considerably; however, as Cech showed during the final months of Chelsea's season, he's capable of keeping a team alive with his work in goal.

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GREECE

EurosGreeceTeam (Reuters)

PLAYERS TO WATCH– Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpigidis, Theofanis Gekas, Giorgios Karagounis

NAME TO LEARN– Ioannis Fetfatzidis. Dubbed "The Greek Messi," the undersized, 21-year-old Fetfatzidis has attracted plenty of worldwide attention and is capable of providing that attacking spark the Greeks don't normally possess.

ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Costas Chalkias (PAOK), Michalis Sifakis (Aris), Alexandros Tzorvas (Palermo).

Defenders: Vassilis Torosidis (Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Werder Bremen), Avraam Papadopoulos (Olympiakos), Jose Holebas (Olympiakos), Stelios Malezas (PAOK), Giorgos Tzavelas (Monaco), Yiannis Maniatis (Olympiakos), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke).

Midfielders: Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos), Costas Katsouranis (Panathinaikos), Giorgos Fotakis (PAOK), Costas Fortounis (Kaiserslautern), Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Olympiakos), Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos), Grigoris Makos (AEK Athens).

Forwards: Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Dimitris Salpigidis (PAOK), Costas Mitroglou (Atromitos), Nikos Lymberopoulos (AEK Athens), Theofanis Gekas (Samsunspor).

OUTLOOK– The 2004 European champions will make life difficult for their opponents with their stubborn style of play, which has proven to be effective in the past. That said, there's little reason to believe that they can replicate their success of eight years ago with an aging squad and a dearth of attacking quality.

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