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Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Group A’s new, less muddled landscape

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How we’ll remember …

Poland 1, Greece 1: A host nation comes out and dominated for 30 minutes, getting some help from an official with a very short leash. Despite this and a half of exhibiting the capabilities of their Borussia Dortmund-based trio, Poland lets Greece back into the match and, half-way through the second half, needs a substitute goalkeeper to come off the bench to preserve a draw after their one English Premier League player sees red.

Russia 4, Czech Republic 1: This was the day that Alan Dzagoev became known west of the curtain. Two goals from the 21-year-old went a long way to setting up another quarterfinal match up with the Dutch. The star beyond the scoresheet? The Russian Prince: Andrei Arshavin. The Zenit star used Euro’s opening day to remind the world he’s still quite good.

Team of the Day

G: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Russia
LB: Yuri Zhirkov, Russia
CB: Sergei Ignashevich, Russia
CB: Aleksei Berezutskiy, Russia
RB: Lukasz Piszczek, Poland
DM: Igor Denisov, Russia
M: Roman Shirokov, Russia
M: Kostas Katsouranis, Greece
LW: Andrei Arshavin, Russia
RW: Alan Dzagoev, Russia
F: Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece;
Subs: Robert Lewandowski, Poland, Przemyslaw Tyton, Poland; Vaclav Pilar, Czech Republic

Three lessons to take home

1. Goalkeepers wanted – Three of the day’s four starting goalkeepers had horrible days:

  • Wojciech Szczesny misread the ball that led to Greece’s goal (then got sent off);
  • Kostas Chalkias gave himself no chance to stop Poland’s goal; and,
  • Petr Cech got beaten four times, and a couple of the goals were preventable.

If there’s one position that’s most susceptible to big tournament pressure, it’s goalkeeper (though Aleksandr Kerzhakov made his case for striker). Who knows if that happened today.

Cech, in particular, would have wanted to put in a better performance. The last time he played in this competition, his error saw the Czechs out of Euro 2008.

2. Don’t look a gift horse – Poland had so much going for them in the first half and then let up. They completely abandoned building down the right, a tactic Greece never dealt with well. Between that and how the Polish defense was exploited in the second half, the co-hosts seemed naive with their advantages, both on the scoreboard and in manpower.

3. From Russia, with love – The Russian national team and Zenit St. Petersburg raised their country’s profile in 2008. Today, they re-raised it, with a national team that inherited Zenit’s backbone breaking the Czech Republic. The fluidity and directness they showed in attack portrayed a veyr well-prepared team. How much the Czechs contributed to that, we’ll find out on Tuesday.

Group A “Power” Rankings

1. Russia – They’re now more than just Group A favorites. They’re sitting in that second tier of favorites with France.

2. Poland – It’s a disappointing start, but when you ask which of them or Greece is more likely to succeed going forward, Poland at least showed (for 30 minutes) they can be a dangerous side.

3. Greece – They controlled the second half. If you’re a coach preparing for Greece, you spend three days hammering home one message: You can not take these guys for granted.

4. Czech Republic – Get out Roy Hodgson’s ropes and tie that defense together. And while you’re at it, bring somebody who can break up play in transition. It looked like whomever was controlling them put the game on expert mode for the first time.

Crystal Ball – What Needs to Happen

Group A resumes play next Tuesday:

Greece and the Czech Republic face each other in a what, for the Greeks, is must win game. They can’t go into a final match with Russia holding only two points (or less) when Poland and the Czechs play each other to close group play. The Czechs, however, have some major work to do ahead of Tuesday. Based on today’s performances, Greece should feel good about getting full points.

In Tuesday’s second game, Russia takes on the co-hosts. Poland needs to get back to using the right side of their attack and commit to putting pressure on Yuri Zhirkov (and push back Andrei Arshavin). If they do that, Poland will win. If they don’t, Russia will clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. I like Poland’s chances to throw this group back into turmoil.

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

1. Germany
2. Spain
3. Netherlands
4. Russia

5. Croatia
6. France
7. England
8. Sweden

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
3. Roman Shirokov, Russia
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.