Poland's forward Robert Lewandowski  (2n

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.

Premier League Preview: Burnley vs. Watford

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  • First-ever meeting in PL
  • Watford looking for third-straight win
  • Burnley haven’t won in last three
  • Clarets without suspended Gray

Burnley host Watford on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports) at Turf Moor in the first-ever Premier League meeting between these two teams.

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Watford is on a roll with Walter Mazzarri‘s side beating Manchester United 3-1 last time out and the Hornets are looking to make it three wins on the spin in the Premier League. Burnley have just one win to their name back in the PL which was at home in the second week of the season against Liverpool. In home games against Hull City and Swansea they’ve conceded goals late on which is a trend manager Sean Dyche (former captain and manager at Watford) will look to end on Monday with his side going three games without a win in the PL.

In team news Burnley are without Andre Gray as the striker was banned three games by the FA for homophobic comments he made on social media back in 2012. Ashley Barnes is out injured for Burnley, while Watford will be without right back Daryl Janmaat plus Younes Kaboul and Jose Holebas are both fitness doubts.

What they’re saying

Dyche on his time at Watford: “It’s well-documented I’ve always had respect for the club. The situation, the business changed etc etc but I mean every word when I say I had a fantastic time there as player, youth coach, assistant manager and manager. Because business changes and you lose your job it doesn’t mean I hold any baggage at all, I certainly don’t. It’s a lot of water under the bridge and they’ve gone on to become a Premier League club so their model of working has worked for them.”

Mazzarri on Troy Deeney: “Of course he is international level. I would be proud and really happy if Deeney went to the national team He has improved physically and he is much fitter now. He is a strong striker – he just needs to look after his fitness. I respect the England manager and his decision, and I am biased as he is one of my players.”

Prediction

Despite Gray’s absence being a big blow for Burnley, I fancy the home side to get all three points. On a chilly night in Lancashire, Burnley have a stacked midfield which can dig deep and frustrate Watford. With the Hornets playing a 3-5-2 formation, this game will be won in midfield and the creativity of Steven Defour and the bite of Jeff Hendrick may get them over the line for a big win. 2-1 to Burnley.

Bob Bradley to take over at Swansea City?

Bob Bradley, Stabaek Fotball
AP
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Bob Bradley is continuing to be linked with jobs in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea clear out? ]

After a poor start to the season Swansea City’s current manager Francesco Guidolin is under plenty of pressure with reports suggesting he could lose his job with Ryan Giggs the favorite to replace him.

However, a report in the Sun newspaper says Swansea’s U.S. owners want to speak with current Le Havre head coach Bradley, 58, about potentially replacing Guidolin at the Liberty Stadium.

The former U.S. men’s national team coach has carved out a wonderful resume since leaving the USMNT in 2011. From taking the Egyptian national team to the brink of World Cup qualification amidst some of the most difficult circumstances in world soccer, he then took tiny Stabaek in Norway to third-place in the top flight and European qualification.

Bradley was also one goal away from getting Le Havre  promoted to Ligue 1 last season as on the final day of the 2015-16 campaign they came agonizingly close to getting out of France’s second-tier.

With the Swans losing four of their six games in the Premier League so far this season, it is clear the fans and perhaps the board aren’t happy with the direction the club is going in under Guidolin’s guidance. The veteran Italian manager arrived in the second half of last season and despite keeping the struggling Swans up quite comfortably, losing the likes of Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew this summer hit him hard.

[ MORE: Donovan talks about Swansea role ]

When it comes to Bradley the reports says American investors Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan — who now own a majority share of the club after their takeover this summer — are concerned about the lack of experience Giggs has as a first team manager. They believe Bradley would be the perfect candidate to build something sustainable and it is hard to argue with that.

Wherever Bradley has been he’s worked miracles on a shoestring budget and often against all odds he has surpassed expectations. Swansea is a club which won’t spend big but will buy young players and hope to develop them while still being able to maintain their PL status, five years after they gained promotion to the top-flight.

Although Giggs still seems like the favorite if Guidolin does leave the Liberty Stadium, it will be intriguing to see if Bradley will finally get a job his abilities as a coach clearly deserves.

After reportedly coming close in the past for the main job at West Bromwich Albion and being linked to Aston Villa, Hull City, Fulham and countless other gigs in the Premier League, the New Jersey native has always been overlooked for whatever reason. He  That’s something he spoke about at length here as he doesn’t believe there’s much difference between himself and the managerial juggernauts such as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

“I’ll tell you what, maybe I’m stupid but I think I am a manager in and around that level. I’m not saying I am better than those guys, I haven’t had those kind of opportunities,” Bradley said. “But I think that people who have played for me have always feel the experience in the team was different, that training was challenging, that there were a lot of things done to help them become better players and better people. I believe in my work. I don’t go around every day complaining, I just roll up my sleeves, try to show people what I’m all about and see what happens.”

Maybe, just maybe, Bradley will finally get to show what he’s all about in the Premier League.

Report: Chelsea set to overhaul defense with clear out

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At times during Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, Antonio Conte looked like he was going to cry.

The defending was that bad.

[ MORE: Conte bemoans defending ]

Chelsea gave up three first half goals, the first in calamitous fashion as Gary Cahill was inexplicably caught on the ball to let Alexis Sanchez in to score, and Conte was seething in his post-match press conference about the level of defending and the fact that Chelsea has now conceded at least twice in each of their last four games.

The Daily Mail reports that the Italian manager has seen enough from both Cahill and struggling right back Branislav Ivanovic and he will “phase them out” in the coming weeks at Stamford Bridge.

With captain John Terry set to come back from injury, plus Kurt Zouma close to a return too, Conte has other options and it seems likely he will now use those.

Per the report, Conte is also looking elsewhere to bolster his defensive options with Burnley’s Michael Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson both linked with a January move to the Blues with the west London said to be scouting both players closely.

It will be intriguing to see how Conte changes things up in the games to come, especially as the Blues face tough tests against Hull City, Leicester City and Manchester United in their next three Premier League games.

Chelsea played the final 35 minutes at the Emirates in a 3-5-2 formation which is one Conte mastered at Juventus and with the Italian national team in the past. That formation may well get the best out of Terry, the erratic David Luiz and perhaps Zouma alongside them. Truth be told, Ivanovic and Cahill have both struggled for the last 12 months and it is about time they were held accountable for some of the defensive mistakes they’ve made.

Whatever Conte does, it has to be something drastic because the way he sets his team’s up they won’t win games 5-0. As long as Chelsea keep things tight, they’ll do well under the Italian manager. But right now that’s a big ‘if’ for the Blues.

As I wrote from the Emirates this weekend, Conte knows he has a huge job on his hands to transform their defense.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports