Euro 2012 preview: Czech Republic

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Czech Republic

Michal Bilek hasn’t been particularly popular during his time as Czech Republic coach, but he has assembled a well-organised, functional side that mixes experience with youth.

The three star names are the trio who featured prominently in the superb Czech side that might have won Euro 2004 were it not for Pavel Nedved’s cruel injury in the semi-final – Milan Baros upfront, Tomas Rosicky as the playmaker, and Petr Cech in goal. It’s a solid spine, but if the Czechs are to spring a surprise, it will be because of the younger, more mobile players located on the flanks.

“I’d characterise our system as a 4-2-3-1,” says Bilak. “But the system is not as important as how the players are able to carry it out. The advantage of this system is that it creates a strong midfield, and that there are fast and skilful players on the wings who can support Baros.” Read more »

Euro 2012 preview: Greece

June 5, 2012
Euro 2012 preview: Greece

Greece aren’t overwhelmingly different from the team that shocked Europe to win Euro 2004. They’re not as extreme in their negativity, and not as effective, but are still  broadly defensive and their main threat will come from set-pieces.

The continuity from eight years ago is obvious when looking at the midfield zone: dead ball specialist Giorgios Karagounis and the defensive Kostas Katsouranis are present and are expected to start. They have a good relationship from years of playing together for Greece, Panathinaikos, and going a few years back, Benfica.

Also at Benfica with those two was Greece’s coach, Fernando Santos, which helped him settle into the job having taken over from the legendary Otto Rehhagel. The two veterans play an important role in the dressing room, making their position in the side secure. Read more »

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 »