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.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia