Russia 4-1 Czech Republic: Russia’s Zenit-style counter-attacking exposes Czech weaknesses

June 9, 2012
Russia 4-1 Czech Republic: Russia’s Zenit-style counter-attacking exposes Czech weaknesses

Russia made a terrific start to their Euro 2012 campaign with a high quality counter-attacking performance.

Dick Advocaat named his expected side – a 4-3-3 system, with Vyacheslav Malafeev in goal.

Michel Bilek’s side featured one alteration from the expected XI – Michal Kadlec moved to the left, where he frequently played during qualification, which meant Roman Hubnik playing at centre-back, and no place for David Limbersky.

Russia were simply the better side throughout the game – more organised defensively, and showcasing much more penetration going forward. Read more »

Poland 1-1 Greece: Poland start brilliantly but Greece adjust admirably after red card

June 8, 2012
Poland 1-1 Greece: Poland start brilliantly but Greece adjust admirably after red card

One goal each, one red card each, and one point each in an entertaining opening game of Euro 2012.

Poland went with their expected side – there were no real debates to be settled in the starting line-up, and Franciszek Smuda used his usual structured yet energetic 4-2-3-1 system.

Fernando Santos had two major decisions to make. The first was in goal, where Kostas Chalkias was chosen from Greece’s three distinctly average goalkeepers. The second choice was on the right of the front three, where Sotiris Ninis started over Dimitris Salpingidis.

This was a game of three phases: 11 v 11, 11 v 10, 10 v 10. Both sides looked in a commanding position at one stage, but a draw was a fair result. Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: France

June 6, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: France

Whatever happens at this tournament, Euro 2012 will be an improvement on the sheer embarrassment of World Cup 2010 for France. The off-field problems meant it was almost impossible to determine how good a side France could have been, and therefore it’s difficult to judge how well Laurent Blanc has performed. But then, repairing the morale of the squad was key, and Blanc seems to have handled that well; his side are now on a 21-match unbeaten run.

On the field, there are still problems to solve. In his three pre-tournament qualifiers, Blanc was either indulging himself in widespread experimentation, or he was a little lost. France have a great number of good players, particularly attacking midfielders, but those players are all of a vaguely similar standard – only Franck Ribery seems undroppable – and all are highly versatile.

Blanc seems to have too many options, and while it feels like there’s a winning combination somewhere, France haven’t yet found it (although the 4-0 win over Estonia on Tuesday night was impressive). As a result, they are highly unpredictable – if it all comes together they could win the competition. If Blanc keeps changing things, it could be a disaster.
Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Ukraine

June 6, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Ukraine

It’s difficult to make a case for Ukraine performing well at this competition. They have home advantage, of course (they wouldn’t be here otherwise) but in the long-term they’ve had four coaches in four years, and in the short-term their squad has been suffering from food poisoning, which has hampered pre-tournament preparations.

Oleg Blokhin is an experienced coach and was in charge of Ukraine for their previous international tournament, World Cup 2006. He’s something of an old-school coach who stresses the need for “players who are prepared to fight for their country”, and has a strict rule that “a candidate for the national side must be a first-choice player at his club.” They are hardly unreasonable demands, but Ukraine neither possesses any superstars nor a particularly deep squad, so hecan hardly afford to be picky. An injury to Dmytro Chygrynskiy, perhaps their best player, hasn’t helped. Read more »