Euro 2012: Group A Preview
This tournament sees all of the competition's previous winners included. Defending champions Spain are hot favourites to retain their crown, but the likes of France, Germany, Holland and maybe even England will be in the hunt to topple the Spaniards.
Here's a look at the prospects of the sides in Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia and Czech Republic
Poland are co-hosting the tournament along with the Ukraine and have been drawn in what is widely regarded as the weakest group of the tournament. The Poles are unbeaten in their last six matches against Greece and will fancy their chances to win the opening game of the tournament against the 2004 Euro winners. The hosts will need to recover from a hugely disappointing 2010 World Cup qualifying display that saw them finish 5th in a six team group, having only gained 1 point in Euro 2008.
Poland then take on Russia, against whom they have won one, lost one and drawn one. Meanwhile, in previous meetings with their final group opponents, Czech Republic, the home side have taken the victory in all meetings between the 2 nations. Could home advantage enable Poland to escape from their group?
Prediction: Quarter Finals
Greece failed to get any points from their group in Euro 2008, which means their last win in the finals stage was in the 2004 final when they stunned Portugal 1-0. Greece finished their qualifying campaign unbeaten, winning 7 and drawing 3 of their 10 games. Greece have yet to win in Poland and will look to get through this opening match unscathed.
The Greeks have a better record over their next opponents, Czech Republic. The Czech's have failed to score in their last 3 games against Greece, most notably in the Euro 2004 semi-final when Greece edged them out 1-0 after extra time. However, Greece have failed to beat their final opponents Russia on the last four occassions they have played in the Euros. The Russians beat the Greeks in the 2004 group stage despite Greece going on to win the tournament, and Russia repeated the feat in 2008.
Prediction: Group Stages
Russia are the group favourites. They reached the semi-final stage four years ago but lost out to eventual winners Spain. The Russians are unbeaten in their last eight matches and under Dick Advocaat (who is leaving after the tournament) they look the strongest side in this group by far. Their opening fixture is against the Czechs, who they have only played once in Euro 96 at Anfield. That game ended 3-3 but it was the Czechs who reached the final that year.
Russia then face co-hosts Poland and although they sport the better record of the two sides, they have not beaten the Poles in Poland in their history. Russia have had the better over Greece in the European Championships. The real question is whether they have enough to humble the likes of Portugal, Germany or Holland to make it consecutive semi-final appearances. Failing to qualify for the World Cup two years ago suggests they don't.
Prediction: Quarter Finals
Czech Republic are usually amongst the big boys when it comes to the European Championships. They just got through their qualification group that included Champions Spain and the "glorious failure" that is Scotland. The Czechs reached the final of Euro 96 and the semi finals of 2004 but it's difficult to imagine them recapturing those heights this time around.
They face Russia in their opening game of course, and then the Greeks who cruelly punted them out in 2004 at the semi-final stage. Then the wrap up against Poland, who they have never beaten away from home. With an under-fire boss and an aging side not much is expected of the Czechs.
Prediction: Group stages