Euro 2012 preview: Russia

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Russia

There are many lessons to take from Spain’s dominance of international football over the past few years, and an important one has been the importance of bringing a solid club connection to international level.

Spain’s World Cup-winning side had a core of Barcelona players, played roughly the same style of football, and therefore benefited from long-standing relationships that couldn’t have been built in the minimal time international sides enjoy together.

Russia coach Dick Advocaat is well aware of this, and has been keen to follow a similar principle as Russia coach. “I just built upon a group of CSKA and Zenit players,” he says. “Both teams are doing well, and it has proved to be the right view.” Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Poland

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Poland

Poland come into this tournament with the lowest world ranking of the 16 competitors, but they are certainly not the weakest side in the competition.

Their ranking is unfairly lowered, of course, because they are the co-hosts and therefore haven’t been playing competitive games over the past two years. The last two years has made a big difference – 24 months ago Poland seemed to lack players established enough to compete at a major international tournament, but the rise of the Dortmund trio (Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub ‘Kuba’ Blaszczkowski and Robert Lewandowski) plus Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, means they do possess some fine footballers. Read more »

Euro 2012 previews: general themes

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 previews: general themes

Team-by-team previews are on their way later today. But, to save repetition in many articles, here are some general themes based upon recent international tournaments:
1. For underdogs, being defensive and organised, then playing on the break is the best bet

Fans of outsiders in this competition have often complained that they’re not passing the ball well enough and that they want to see a more expansive game. That might be personal preference in terms of aesthetics, but the current success as Spain shouldn’t be seen as the template for more minor football nations in this competition.

Recent underdogs who have proved successful have generally been very defensive, have allowed themselves to be dominated, then relied on counter-attacking and set-pieces. Continental champions Greece in 2004 and Zambia in 2012 had the lowest pass completion rate of any side in the tournament. Uruguay weren’t quite so extreme in World cup 2010 and Copa America 2011, but were very reactive. For the likes of Ireland, Czech Republic and Ukraine, playing ‘good football’ is not on the agenda.

Being a knockout tournament, you can get far simply by being hard to beat – Paraguay reached last year’s Copa America final with five consecutive draws. Read more »

ZM’s European Team of the Year 2011/12

May 30, 2012
ZM’s European Team of the Year 2011/12

It’s that time of year again. Minimal explanation needed – eleven starts and eleven substitutes. Read more »