Sunday, 4 December 2011

Russia to face hosts Poland in Euro 2012

Russia will play co-hosts Poland, Greece and Czech Republic in Group A at Euro 2012. The draw has been kind to Russia as all the group opponents are lower-ranked, and it escaped the tournament’s stronger teams. The fans, however, will be upset that the games are not in Ukraine, where they need no visa and everyone speaks Russian.

Since 1992 Russia only lost two out of 14 games in total against Group A opponents Poland, Greece and Czech Republic, drawing five and winning seven, according to Opta stats. They scored an average of 1.6 goals per game, and failed to score only twice.

Russian midfielder Igor Semshov was pleased with the draw.

We could only have dreamt about such a group,” he told Sovietsky Sport. “It was a lucky draw, the most optimal group. What happens in the games is a different issue, but the draw, you can say, favours Russia. Everything depends on us alone.”

All four [coaches] are happy with the group, because everybody can beat each other. So, with that in mind, we're looking forward to the first game. It's the third consecutive time that Russia have been drawn with Greece in the group stage of the Euros, so we're familiar rivals.”

Group B has Germany and Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark. Group C has current European and World Champions Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland. Group D includes hosts Ukraine, England, Sweden and France.

Russia was hoping to play in Russian-speaking Ukraine where no visa is needed for the fans and any game would have practically turned into a home match. The team has also chosen a base in Kiev, but will now have to travel a thousand kilometers for games in Wroclaw in Western Poland and more than 700 kilometers to Warsaw.

Russia’s first game will be at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw against Czech Republic, while Poland will open the tournament with a match against Greece in Warsaw, on June, 8. Dick Advocaat’s men then travel to Warsaw where they will play Poland on June, 12 and Greece on June 16 at the National Stadium.

Top two teams in each group go through to the quarterfinals, and should Russia succeed, it will meet one of the survivors from the Group of Death - World Cup runners-up Netherlands, third-placed Germany, Portugal and Denmark.

Hosts Poland will play in front of the home crowd, and boast Arsenal goalkeeping duo Wojciech Szczesny and Łukasz Fabiański and Bundesliga champions with Borussia Dortmund Robert Lewandowski, Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Błaszczykowski. Poland is ranked 66th in FIFA ratings, but such a low placing is deceptive, as they did not play any competitive matches in the last two years, having qualified for the tournament as hosts.

Greece, ranked 14th, were surprising Euro 2004 Champions, and last played Russia in a friendly 1:1 draw in November. Greece topped their qualification group and while it does not have household names in the line-up, its game is based on organized defense. Russia was the only side to beat Greece at Euro 2004, in the group stage.

Czech Republic, ranked 33rd, conceded on average one goal a game in the qualification campaign, and got to the finals by beating Montenegro in the play-offs, captained by Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky.

The tournament will run for three weeks from June, 8 to July, 1. Eight cities will host games: Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk and Poznan in Poland; Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv in Ukraine.

The final will be played on July, 1 in Kiev at Olimpiisky Stadium.

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