As it happened, Euro 2012: Russia stay top, Czech Republic vaults second

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Euro 2012’s second round of group games kicks off today and will waste no time pushing on team face-to-face with elimination. Coming off their 4-1 loss Friday to Russia, the Czech Republic can book their return flight to Prague if they lose today’s first match to Greece.

That game kicks off at noon Eastern in Warsaw, with what’s likely to be Group A’s most entertaining game following at 2:45 p.m. Then, Russia will be in Warsaw to face co-hosts Poland, match that may or may not be embroiled in security concerns. Staging issues aside, Russia can clinch a quarterfinal spot with a win. If Greece and the Czech Republic draw, Russia can clinch first place.

We’ll be updating you on the day’s significant events below. In the interim, here’s some pre-match reading:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Monday’s action:


(All times Eastern)

1637 – Poland 1-1 Russia, Final – A spectacular second half goal brings Poland back, earning the co-hosts a point. They’re on two points. Russia stays top of the group with four.

1632 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Into stoppage time, and Arashvin is gassed. He barely wants the ball anymore, and Russia doesn’t seem to know what to do in their attacking phase when Arshavin doesn’t want the ball.

1616 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Interesting, agressive substitution from Poland. Adrian Mierzejewski is on. Dudka is off. Mierzejewski will play on the right. Obraniak will play behind Lewandowski. Kuba’s on the left. Polanski and Murkawski are the midfield.

1613 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Vyacheslav Malafeev’s called into action again as Poland works through the right channel before cutting back for Polanski, who thumps a sharp angle shot on goal.

Both sides might have a goal in them. The game’s reasonably open.

Roman Pavlyuchenko’s come on for Aleksandr Kerzhakov.

1600 – Poland 1-1 Russia – Poland on a counter gets Ludomir Obraniak on the same side as Jacob Blaszczykowski. It’s too much for Yuri Zkirkov to handle, as he loses Kuba on a run cutting toward the box. Obraniak with a perfect ball allows Blasczzykowski to touch the ball back toward the middle as Sergei Ignashevich passes by. Ten yards later, Kuba let go of a shot into the left of net, evening the game at one.

1552 – Poland 0-1 Russia – Russia’s got to get better on set pieces or else John Heitenga will get on the scoresheet in the quarterfinal. Three time this half, Poland players have had relatively uncontested headers.

1548 – Poland 0-1 Russia – We are back. Doesn’t look like there were any changes. We’ll see when and if Poland turns it on.

1534 – Poland 0-1 Russia, Halftime – And that’s halftime, and what a half by the Russians. Poland came out and looked the better side, but Russia waited them out and found the opener. Along the way, they’ve started neutralizing Robert Lewandowski, making it near-impossible for Poland to get out of their own half.

After the tournament moved on from its opening day, I started thinking Russia’s Friday performance was a bit aberrational. Against an opponent that’s performing much better than the Czech Republic did last week, Russia’s reaffirming they’re the real deal.

1524 – Poland 0-1 Russia – After 30 strong minutes from Poland, Russia has not only withstood the assault, they find themselves in the lead.

Andrei Arshavin, restarting from the right, 23 yards out, whips in an unbelievable ball that finds Alan Dzagoev, who is up to three goals in the tournament. Quick notes on the goal: Yuri Zhirkov’s effort to keep the ball in attack drew the foul on Marcin Wasilewski as the Russia left back bolted forward; Poland looked to be zonal marking and saw one channel flooded (and Arshavin found the channel that it looked like Lukasz Pisczcek was guarding); very impressive for the Russians to hold out, take control, and score. Poland were so strong at the opening whistle.

1519 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland’s defensive shape is 4-1-4-1 with forward Robert Lewandowski coming very deep to help congest the midfield. The room we saw Roman Shirokov and Konstantin Zyryanov have against the Czech Republic just isn’t there. When they can get the ball to Alan Dzagoev and Andrei Arshavin, there is a little room to create without the second holding midfielder. But Poland seems to have made a good call by getting a second central midfielder to the level where Shirokov and Zyryanov should be getting the ball.

Russia is dominating possession right now, but there’s doing nothing with it. After 5-6 touches they usually play an over-weighted through ball (Poland’s line forcing it to be hit hard) or put a cross out.

1506 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Russia has held much of the possession over the last 10 minutes, but some nice coordination from Poland’s defense has allowed a number of Russia’ through balls to roll on to Przemyslaw Tytón. Russia has been able to get into attack down their right, when Alan Dzagoev is dragging Boesnich in, providing room for Aleksandr Anyukov.

Going the other way, Poland had a beautiful, five-pass movement that led to a corner kick and also showed Russia another way they are going to be dangerous.

1454 – Poland 0-0 Russia – Poland with the first good chances of the match. Ludomir Obraniak’s restart from the right flank is perfect, dropping it right outside the six yard box, where Sebastian Boesnich nails a header down toward the goal line. A great save my Vyacheslav Malafeev keeps the game scoreless. Second later, a Poland corner finds Boesnich again, his latest try forcing a leaping grab.

Russia was poor in the air versus the Czech Republic, but Michal Bilek wouldn’t bring on anybody to take advantage of it. Here, Poland’s showing they can, and with the advantages they have down their right, this could be match-deciding edge.

Poland has started very strong.

1446 – Poland 0-0 Russia – And we are off.

1435 – Here are the lineups:

Russia: Malafeev, Anyukov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Berezutski, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev, Arshavin, Kerzhakov SUBS: Akinfeev, Shunin, Sharonov, Granat, Nababkin, Izmailov, Kombarov, Kokorin, Glushakov, Semshov, Pavlyuchenko, Pogrebnyak.

It’s an unchanged team from Russia.

Poland: Tytoń, Boenisch, Wasilewski, Perquis, Piszczek, Dudka, Polanski, Obraniak, Murawski, Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski SUBS: Sandomierski, Wojtkowiak, Kamiński, Wawrzyniak, Matuszczyk, Rybus, Mierzejewski, Wolski, Grosicki, Sobiech, Brożek.

One change for Poland. Darius Dudka is coming in for Maciej Rybus. It looks like that will move Rafal Murawski up a level, push Ludomir Obraniak left, with Dudka playing beside Eugen Polanski deep in midfield.

1433 – Satiated? Good. Here’s our Offshore drilling.

1351 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic, Final – Two goals in the first six minutes decided the came, with the Czechs now in position to advance with a win over Poland on Saturday. Greece got a gift goal and plenty of time to find an equalizer, but with a match with Russia to close their Group A schedule, Greece is barely in this tournament.

Match report in about 30. Go get a bite to eat, will ya?

1347 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Neither sides creating chances but the Czech Republic holding enough of the ball to kill time, Michal Pilek makes his final chance. Daniel Kolar, who came on at halftime for Tomas Rosicky, comes off. Frantisek Rajtoral is brought on to reinforce the defense.

1336 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Santos’s last set of changes has moved Samaras farther left and farther back, and he’s been able to provide another route into attack, carrying the ball along the left side. You could see the passing for Giorgios Karagounis and long balls for Kostas Katsouranis eventually providing Greece and equalizer, but right now they’re not generating many chances.

1327 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Greece is preparing to make their final substitution, and it will be an attacking one. Kostas Mitroglou will come on. Young Kostas Fortounis will come off. Between Mitroglou, Fanis Gekas, Samaras and Salpingidis, this is about as attacking as Greece can be.

1322 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Czechs had made another change. Milan Baros is off. Tomas Pakhart is on. Baros was pretty useless.

1310 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic – Petr Cech and Tomas Sivok combine to gift Greece a goal, giving them hope. A passionless ball from Giorgios Samaras on the right bounces toward the spot. Cech’s coming for what looks like an each grab, but he and Sivok collide. The ball rolls to Theofanis Gekas who has an easy finish into an open net.

Looking at the replay, Cech had lost control of the ball before he an Sivok (not Kadlec) collided. He just got kind of spooked by the defender and lost control of the situation.

1302 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – We’re back. Second half has started. Each team makes one halftime chance. Tomas Rosicky is off for the Czechs with Viktoria Plzen’s Daniel Kolar on. That’s either an injury or preservation. For Greece, Theofanis Gekas on for the relatively anonymous Giorgos Fotakis.

1301 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – Some numbers … Possession: Czech Republic 51-49; Shots: Czech Republic 6-2; Shots on target: Czech Republic 3-2.

1247 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic, Halftime – That’s halftime, and as you can tell by the (in)frequency of updates, thinks slowed down dramatically after the opening fireworks. The Czech Republic still looked the better them but only tested Sifakis once. At the other end, Greece never worried Petr Cech. Their best rout into attack has been Katsouranis playing long balls out of the back, but Samaras has not been able to win enough of them.

Who needs coffee?

1221 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias plays a ball out an raises his hand to the bench. He needs to come off. Michalis Sifakis comes in, the second match in a row Greece has been forced into a first half substitution.

1219 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – Greece has come into the match, evening things from the Czechs’ rousing opening. Neither team’s creating any decent chances. Greece looks a little more sure of themselves at the back, though they seem to have few options in attack when they try to get forward.

1206 – Greece 0-2 Czech Republic – This has been a horror tournament for Jose Holebas. Right back Theodor Gebre Selassie beats Holebas to the line, cuts it into the six where Vaclav Pilar wins a battle with Katsouranis, scoring his second goal of the tournament.

1205 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Pre-match we speculated Giannis Maniatis would drop back and play central defense. It’s actually Kostas Katsouranis.

1203 – Greece 0-1 Czech Republic – Petr Jiracek has put the Czech up within three minutes. Tomas Hubschman finds Petr Jiracek cutting across Jose Holebas from the right. He’s in on got and finishes into the right netting. It’s 1-0.

1200 – Greece 0-0 Czech Republic – We’re off, with Greece moving from left to right.

1155 – Teams are on the field and listen to/singing their anthems. Kick off is minutes away.

1117 – We’re still a long way from the top of the hour kickoff, but here are your lineups and my obligatory picks:

Czech Republic: Čech, Gebre Selassie, Kadlec, Sivok, Limberský, Rosický, Plašil, Pilař, Hübschman, Jiráček, Baroš SUBS: Laštuvka, Drobný, Suchý, Hubník, Rajtoral, Rezek, Petržela, Kolář, Darida, Necid.

Two changes for the Czechs. Viktoria Plzen’s David Limbersky comes in at the back for Roman Hubnik while defensive midfielder Tomas Hubschman gets the start, pushing Jan Rezek to the bench. That likely moves Jaroslav Plasil higher in the formation (into the attacking line of the Czech Republic’s 4-2-3-1). Huschman’s set to start next to Petr Jiracek in front of the defense.

Greece: Chalkias, Maniatis, Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Holebas, Karagounis, Fotakis, Katsouranis, Fortounis, Samaras, Salpingidis SUBS: Tzorvas, Sifakis, Tzavellas, Malezas, Makos, Ninis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Gekas, Pekhart, Lafata.

As we speculated in the preview, Fernando Santos seems to have dropped midfielder Giannis Maniatis into defense, with both Greece’s starting center halves out for this one. Nineteen-year-old Kostas Fourtounis will take his place in midfield. There are two other changes. Sotiris Ninis and Theofanis Gekas go to the bench.  Giorgos Fotakis and first match hero Dimitris Salpingidis are in the XI.

Picks for today? I have Greece 2-1 and Poland to upset Russia by the same score.
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.

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.